Skip Nav

Free English Literature essays

Client testimonials

❶To the Victorians, reform means keeping the current social and economic system in place by perpetuating upper-class virtues and economy. The tea ceremony in Act II is a hilarious example of Wilde's contention that manners and appearance are everything.

Critical Evaluation

The Importance of Being Earnest Thesis Statements and Important Quotes
Algernon is suspicious of Jack’s personal life because he finds a
Navigate Guide

The playwright himself penned this, so the reader is inevitably inclined to ask himself whether this deprecating subtitle is accurate. In fact, the title of the play alone gives the reader some inclination as to what the story is about; the importance of being serious and resolute, which not coincidentally are two of the most important Victorian ideals.

The play was critically acclaimed from its first performance and was instantly accepted by the public; a foreshadowing of the stories timelessness. This is aptly by Wilde in his droll depictions of aristocratic British men and women at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite his critical tone, Wilde does not alienate the members of his audience, but rather sheds light on the absurdity of societal traditions, such as courtship, engagement and marriage, while at the same time reaffirming the beliefs of his audience.

The two central figures are Jack and Algernon who are friends in spite of their seemingly artificial oppositions. Jack is a responsible, serious man who firmly announces his intentions of marrying Gwendolyn from the very beginning of the play.

The two men, who the audience later discovers are brothers, are actually not as different as they first appear. Outwardly, they act very differently and constantly criticize one another on his actions, but in reality, both have the same ulterior motive and acts solely for his own benefit. Jack pretends to have a brother so that he may travel to London to see Gwendolyn. Both men pretend to be named Ernest in order to impress Gwendolyn and Cecily obviously another pun on the title of the play.

Likewise, Cecily, while not as well educated, is steadfast in what she wants from Algernon, such as her insistence that his name be Ernest. Gwendolyn and Cecily create much of the comedic elements of the play through their relentless demands of Jack and Algernon. There is a sense of old society versus new society whenever Jack, Algernon, Gwendolyn, and Cecily interact with the older characters.

To Lady Bracknell, marriage has nothing to do with love and affection, but rather solely relies on the respectable social image that is created. Lady Bracknell is the stereotypical Victorian woman whose utmost concern is outward appearances and societal impressions. Money, status, and manners are the only necessities in life, without which one is destined to become associated with the detestable lower classes.

These revelations about Miss Prism blatantly contrast with Victorian acceptability. This is yet another way in which Wilde portrays modern relationships and love. With his depictions of Bracknell and Miss Prism, Wilde creates an obvious paradigm between what a proper woman should be.

Turning on the play of words in the title, the drama also satirizes the very idea of earnestness, a virtue to which the Victorians attached the utmost significance. To work hard, to be sincere, frank, and open, and to live life earnestly was the Victorian ideal. Wilde not only satirizes hypocrisy and sham virtue, he also mocks its authentic presence. Wilde mocked the high society of his time, and he paid a high price for it. Although Wilde was married and the father of two children, he, like many apparently heterosexual men, also had sex with men, a not unusual situation in late-nineteenth century England.

However, because British law held homosexual acts to be criminal, once Wilde lost his suit alleging slander, the door opened for criminal proceedings against him.

The first trial ended in a hung jury, but Wilde was immediately tried again, found guilty, and sentenced to two years hard labor. After serving the full sentence, he went at once to France. He did not set foot again on English soil, and he died in Paris two years later, a broken man. These biographical details are closely connected with the art of Wilde and with The Importance of Being Earnest , a play in which a number of the characters lead double lives.

They are adroit at saying and doing two opposing things at once, and they are virtuosic in their use of language. Nearly all the humor in the play depends on these devices. At times, it is not quite clear if the characters intend to imply another, usually hidden because socially dangerous meaning or if they are quite unconscious and even inept. This shimmer between intention and its opposite is constant throughout the play, making the play a parade of cognitive dissonance.

The Importance of Being Earnest , in particular, was immensely popular, its run cut short only by the real-life scandal that overtook the playwright. The man who exposed secrets so subtly in his writing had exposed his own altogether too explicitly.

by Oscar Wilde

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

The Importance of Being Earnest essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of .

Privacy FAQs

- Satire in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners, whereby Oscar Wilde uses satire to ridicule marriage, love and the mentality of the Victorian aristocratic society.

About Our Ads

The Importance of Being Earnest, in particular, was immensely popular, its run cut short only by the real-life scandal that overtook the playwright. The man who exposed secrets so subtly in his. The Importance of Being Earnest is a trivial comedy for serious people written by Oscar Wilde and set in late Victorian London. The comedy is made purposely to criticise the aristocratic. The play’s crucial themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the satire of the Victorian system and their strong beliefs at .

Cookie Info

Satire in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest Essay. Satire in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners, whereby Oscar Wilde uses satire to ridicule marriage, love and the mentality of the Victorian aristocratic society. It can also be referred to as a satiric comedy. Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Importance of Being Earnest as a Morality Play Oscar Wilde lived and wrote during the Victorian era, a time characterized by an emphasis on strict moral values.