In ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ There Is A Tension Between The Artificial Behaviour Dictated By Society And The Natural Way In Which People W...

673 words - 3 pages

In ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Oscar Wilde’s characters frenetically seek to convey themselves in a society which has an unyielding and distinct set of limitations expected of the individual. The conventions of marriage and love, together with the compulsion of projecting a mask of virtue, causes characters to be trapped in a metaphysical corset which blocks the true expression of the individual to surface. The restrictive nature of these restraints causes characters such as Jack and Algernon to pursue greater liberty and find it within the conception of “Bunbury;” a figurative subordinate façade, which allows them to escape from the overbearing and restricting roles in their society. The contradiction of a character being forced to create another mask to escape from their original façade is illustrative of the superficiality of their society that is fanatical about outward appearances. The characters that are unable to form this secondary façade are despondently imprisoned within their “corset;” forced to twist sincere sentiment to fit the conventions of their society. Consequently Wilde exposes the socio-cultural constrictions of Victorian society as unnatural and manufactured through his well-mannered characters, forcing them to develop a contrast, allowing them to shed their external mask of courteousness and revive their amatory instincts.

As Jack and Algernon are of their own independent means, their creation of this secondary cover-up allows them to participate in what Jack calls “reckless extravagance,” once their masks of morality have been abandoned. This “Bunburying” is the ultimate social trickery, a perfect manoeuvre to maintain external appearances while allowing them to simultaneously find freedom from them. Jack and Algernon’s responsibility to their societal position is found with their obligation to show a “respectability of character” when they return to their roles as gentlemen in the country and town respectively. The birth of their fabricated and unrespectable alter egos permits them to run away from the duties, which are integral to their...

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