Importance Of Being Earnest Essay

1712 words - 7 pages

Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew offer representation of the ideas of the woman toward the turn of the century. They happen to be similar in many ways but still have their differences. Gwendolen and Cecily are insistent and take initiative in search of their own aspirations. Gwendolen follows Jack to the country, a place most likely very unfamiliar to her, and Cecily pursues Algernon as soon as she sees him. They are also both capable of escaping those who intend to keep them from their goals. Gwendolen is able to flee her overbearing mother, Lady Bracknell; Cecily outsmarts Jack by organizing Algernon to stay, and also avoids Miss Prism to continue on a rendezvous with her lover. For ...view middle of the document...

Even as Wilde mocks the Victorian ideals of courtship and marriage with his female characters, despite their arrangement in society as victims of the scheming of men, the women are characters who control the situation. Even though these ladies aren’t as cruel as Lady Bracknell they hold the practical sense the men lack.
The two final characters Miss Prism and Reverend Chasuble are the threshold used by Wilde to comment on the church and morality. The minister is a rational character. He is a typical reverend who gives fatherly advice. Inattentively in charge of his worshipper’s souls, he performs christenings and similar sermons, depending on the situation. On some occasions the reverend may slip and glimpses of his lust for Miss Prism are exposed, but he is always spewing moral clichés, and represents the view of Victorian religion. Miss Prism is also rational, but in the literary sense. She is writer and has a past. Instead of becoming a novelist she is stuck with the duties of tending to Cecily and being the keeper of her studies and merit. Both she and Reverend Chasuble often make moral judgments. She states multiple times that "As a man sows, so shall he reap." The repetition of this shows how meaningless religion and ethics have become. As a tool used by the aristocracy, Miss Prism’s duties include educating Cecily to conform to the dry logical pursuits calculated to keep things constant. But, below her facade she has a self-indulgent streak. Her tongue often slips as she ventures outside of her Victorian realm as she invites the Reverend to converse on the subject of marriage and constantly pursues him, eventually falling into his arms. Miss Prism is a suitable character to unearth Jack's true pedigree as she is not what she seems. Wilde uses her to show what happens when dreams cannot be pursued in a society of strict social structure and stringent moral guidelines. Miss Prism and Chasuble, not being able to pursue their dreams and lack of advancement in social status, allows them to become slaves to the Victorian structure, insinuating its persistence.
As characters play a huge role in this play so does the world in which they live. In order for Wilde to mock the upper class Victorian society he places this play in the eighteen-nineties. Wilde uses the setting, London in the late 1800s, to show society's general lack of concern toward the importance of true love and marriage. Many of the characters observe marriage as a mere business matter and to be used for one's social standing and security. While Jack sees it as more of a pleasure, because he has found what he believes to be true love. Jack acts the opposite of how he is expected to act, being a member of the upper class. Wilde is poking fun at the upper class. He uses sarcasm to show the flaws of the upper class, such as them thinking only of money and status. Wilde also uses setting to add to the confusion and magnify the separation of the country life, being earnest, and the...

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