Comedy of Manners

Topics: Irony, Paradox, Epigram Pages: 7 (2434 words) Published: September 8, 2013
A comedy concerned with the social actions and behavior of members of a highly sophisticated, upper-class society. 

The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of dialogue, abounding in the use of paradox, epigram, and irony. All these three devices produce a comic effect in this play, even though it is possible for a dramatist to use these devices for a serious purpose also. There are a number of paradoxical statements, epigrammatic remarks, and ironical or sarcastic remarks, all of a comic nature so” as to amuse us. When the play is presented on the stage, the audience would keep laughing most of the time because of the witty paradoxes and witty remarks of an ironical nature.

Paradoxical Statements Made By Algernon

A paradoxical statement may mean something seemingly absurd yet true in fact; or it may mean a statement apparently at variance with or in opposition to established principles yet demonstrably true ; or it may mean a statement expressing an idea which is contrary to received opinion. Almost every character in The Importance of Being Earnest makes paradoxical remarks which are witty. At the very outset, for instance, Algernon says that the lower orders of society should set a good example of moral responsibility for the upper classes. This is a paradoxical statement, because the accepted view is that the upper classes should set a good example for the lower classes to follow. Algernon soon afterwards, talking to Jack, makes the statement that more than half of modern culture depends on what people should not read. This is a paradoxical remark because, in actual fact, reading contributes to the development of culture. Another paradoxical statement made by Algernon is that the truth is rarely pure and never simple; the accepted view being that truth can be pure and -simple. Algernon here adds that modern literature would be a complete impossibility if truth was either pure or simple, and this is another paradox. Algernon also says that literary criticism should be left to people who have not been at a university, and this too is a paradoxical statement because in actual fact literary critics are people who have had the benefit of a university education. When Algernon demands from Jack an explanation of the inscription on his cigarette-case, Algernon speaks in a paradoxical manner, saying to Jack: “Now produce your explanation, and pray make it improbable,” whereas normally we would say: “Now produce your explanation, and pray make it probable or plausible.” When Algernon describes women’s flirtation with their own husbands as washing their clean linen in public, he is again making a paradoxical statement because the idiom is “to wash one’s dirty linen in public” Another paradoxical statement made by Algernon is that in married life three is company and two is none, whereas the common saying is that two is company and three is none. Algernon again makes a paradoxical statement when he says that people who are not serious about their meals are very shallow-minded, because the accepted view is that people who are too particular about their meals must be shallow-minded and not in the habit of thinking. Algernon also says that he loves to hear his relations abused and that it is the only thing that makes him put up with them at all. This is a paradoxical statement because normally we do not want to hear our relatives abused. Another paradoxical remark from Algernon is as follows : “It is awfully hard work doing nothing.” How can idleness or doing nothing be regarded as awfully hard work ? (This remark has also an epigrammatic quality). When Algernon says that he loves scrapes (or difficult situations) because they are the only things that are never serious be makes a paradoxical statement because scrapes or difficulties are certainly serious matters which give rise to feelings of anxiety in us. Another paradoxical statement made by Algernon is as follows : “Well, one must be serious about something, if...
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