Wilde's Use of Binary Opposites Is the Key Comedic Element in 'the Impoprtance of Being Earnest'. to What Extent Do You Agree with This View?

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Wilde’s use of binary oppositions is the key comedic element in the
Importance of Being Earnest.
To what extent do you agree with this view?
Throughout the play, Oscar Wilde portrays several binary opposites using the characters and themes of the play, such as the town and country, class, age, gender and morals. However I don’t think that the binary opposites are the main source of comedy in the play. The reason I find it comical is from the fact that the play is a comedy of manners as well as Wilde’s satirising of the Victorian morals. Wilde’s depiction of Victorian caricatures also creates amusement for the audience. In the play, trivial things are regarded so seriously and the serious things in life are treated with sincere and studied triviality. This philosophy allows for a very comic scene at the end of Act II, as it ends with Jack and Algernon eating and arguing over muffins instead of chasing after their beloved ones who have found out the truth about them and seems like the marriage is off. So even though the binary oppositions in the Importance of Being Earnest provide comedy, I don’t believe that they are the key comedic element in the play.
A binary opposition is portrayed with the theme of gender and the contrast between male and female. The play is set during the Victorian era where men have greater influence than women. Usually men would make all the political decisions for the household and the women would be the mother and housewife. However, Wilde reverses gender roles by placing Lady Bracknell in a position of authority and power in the house. And to add to this, he makes the male characters such as Jack and Algernon quite irresponsible. When Gwendolen is talking to Cecily about who she is, she talks about her father. “Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it should be. The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man.”(Act II.266) Wilde uses Gwendolen to go against the

Bibliography: http://www.shmoop.com/importance-of-being-earnest/gender-theme.html http://www.shmoop.com/importance-of-being-earnest/society-class-theme.html Wordsworth Classics, the Plays of Oscar Wilde, Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest. (Text) The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) Directed by Oliver Parker. Written by Oscar Wilde (DVD)

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