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Victorian Society in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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Victorian Society in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde essay
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English aristocracy or British nobility have shaped Great Britain and has been around for centuries most importantly throughout the Victorian Era. In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, readers are exposed to the behaviors of upper-class Victorian society, through Wilde’s eyes. In order to achieve this, he used a witty dialogue to ridicule the institution of marriage, gender roles, and social expectations and lifestyles of English aristocracy. By using satirical tone, irony, and wit.

Marriage and love are two broad topics in Wilde’s play. The aristocratic Lady Bracknell sees marriage as an obligation as seen in Act 1 “Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself… And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing” (Wilde, 44). Lady Bracknell defines how marriage is supposed to be like. Love in the other hand for most of the story is an unreachable sentiment and, in a way, cannot be contrasted with marriage even though marriage is a way to compromise between two individuals who love each other and will love each other until death. The satire here is that fortune, status, name, and most importantly where was Jack was found are decisive factors for Gwendolen to marry Jack.

Although in the Victorian world of this play, men have greater influence than women because they make the political decisions for their families, while women work around the house, quietly taking care of the children. Men are valued for their intellect and judgment, while women are attractive to men for their beauty and chastity. However, Wilde raises interesting questions about gender roles by putting women such as Lady Bracknell in positions of power and by showing that men like Jack and Algernon can be irresponsible and bad at decision-making. “Lady Bracknell: (sitting down again) A moment, Mr. Worthing. A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her” (Wilde, 96). When Lady Bracknell heard about Cecily’s fortune that made up for her attractiveness. Women are weak by society but criticizing gender roles Wilde portrays women can be powerful nonetheless also dreamers wishing to be married to a man whose name they fall in love with.

In the time period Wilde published this play the upper-class would have been the ones in the audience watching the play and they should have realized his use of satire to mock their attitudes and pretentious values. Using wit between Jack and Algernon in Act 1, Wilde displays the upper class as hypocritical. When Jack says, “My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist. It produces a false impression” (Wilde, 33-34). He tries to claim that Algernon is being deceitful but instead, highlights his own hypocrisy, as previously he had been trying to deceive him about Cecily. However, Jack is being indirect towards his conversation with Algy, thus creating an agreeable tone, when in fact, what he is saying is not of reason. From this, the audience can tell that Jack is arguing just for the sake of arguing, since his words are not of actual substance, which makes it even funnier seeing that he is constructing an irrelevant link – that does not even prove his point. It highlights how trivial Jack is in his own consciousness and what may have prompted him to live a double life.

As absurd as it may appear The Importance of Being Earnest puts everyone in a spotlight, not only the English aristocracy. The readers are foremost enhanced to live the lives of those portrayed in Wilde’s play. He has appealed, more, to the audience’s intelligence than their emotions. However, he has also created comedy by installing farcical features such as mistaken identity, physical humor and an absurd plot in the play. To conclude earnestness is the Victorian mindset.

Victorian Society in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde essay

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FAQ

How does Oscar Wilde critique Victorian society?
Not only does Wilde blast against the snobbery, self-importance, ignorance, and idleness of the upper-class Victorian society, but he also targets plenty of ideals that were as ridiculous as they were nonsensical, using irony and paradoxes to insinuate the problems and faults found in the Victorian society.
What aspects of Victorian society does Oscar Wilde make fun of in The Importance of Being Earnest?
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde mocks education in the upper Victorian society using satirical elements such as juxtaposition, extension, tone of mock seriousness, and irony . Through the comparison of the education of nobles and peasants, juxtaposition is woven throughout the play.
What does Oscar Wilde criticize the Victorian society through his play The Importance of Being Earnest?
Wilde's Critique of Victorian Society in The Importance of Being Earnest. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde utilizes parody to deride the social standards of marriage, love and mentality which were inflexible during the Victorian Age .
What was Oscar Wilde's position towards Victorian society?
Through a well structured play, Wilde makes perfectly clear what his personal opinion on the Victorian society. Basing the plot of the play on the concept of living a double life, the playwright shows how vain, hypocritical and void of any real moral value society is .
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