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Explore The Extent To Which Oscar Wilde Uses Satire As A Didactic Tool In ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ And ‘The Portrait

1066 words - 5 pages

Through the comparison of education of the upper and lower classes, juxtaposition is interlaced throughout ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Lady Bracknell is the foremost character to portray this satirical technique, as she considers the upper class to be much more educated than the lower class, merely because of social status. “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” Her saying this demonstrates how she considers the lower classes should remain ignorant, for if they did ...view middle of the document...

Extension and a tone of mock seriousness are also significant in satirising education in this play. Again, this quote can be used to depict another feature of educational satire: “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” When Lady Bracknell says this, it is extremely hyperbolic. Stating that education does absolutely nothing for England, is a very bold statement; one that is hard to believe. Claiming that by simply being educated, a rebellion would begin to stir, also gives off a ludicrous air. When read, this proclamation makes the reader feel as though Lady Bracknell is being illogical. Oscar Wilde could have meant for the reader to see Lady Bracknell as ridiculous, as she believes so intensely in absurd ideas, that it undermines the whole subject.
In contrast, Miss Prism far surpasses her knowledge, even though she is of the lower class. Lady Bracknell’s idiocy is also highlighted when she controverts her own previous opinion. She states, “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” Meaning she believes ignorance is a blessing, but still considers herself to be clever. It is from this irony, that Oscar Wilde further satirises not only the education offered during his time but also the attitudes of the aristocracy.
Although there is clearly satire evident here, it cannot be said that Wilde means it as a didactic tool in this instance as there is seemingly no moral suggestion for the education system to be improved. It could be said that Wilde highlights a social faux pas but does not necessarily provide commentary on the corruption of the matter. In ‘The importance of Being Earnest’ the satire of education is merely something to be laughed at.
However it could be said on a different level that Miss Prism represents the institution of education; more interested in furthering its own goals than caring for the...

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