"The Importance Of Being Earnest Is A Sharp Satire On The English Upper Classes, Rather Than Merely A Playful Comedy, As Wilde Suggested." To What

1484 words - 6 pages

The Importance of Being Earnest, uses comedy and farce to display a light hearted approach to the hugely powerful upper class of Victorian society and add a playful edge to their actions. Although it could also be seen as a comedic shell for the true nature of Wilde’s comment upon the society in which it is set, exposing the flaws and inconsistencies that the upper class was built upon. It will be necessary to consider whether Wilde is purposely commenting on the dysfunction of the society in which he lived, or if it does in fact only serve as a comedy.
The The Importance of Being Earnest can be seen as comedic because Wilde uses the subversion of gender roles to give an indication that the ...view middle of the document...

But why does you’re aunt call you her Uncle Jack”. From this we see that Wilde is not using the characters to criticise the Victorian traditions but merely to provide a slapstick version of events as though to poke fun, instead of directly insulting the Victorian upper class. The exaggerated actions: “[retreating to back of sofa]” solidify the view that it is that of a comedy as it does not directly mimic a real situation because the characters are acting in a more childish manner to what we’d expect of the high society. Wilde creates a farcical situation: “[following Algernon around the room]” although his speech remains proper: “Yes. Charming old lady she is too”. This represents an unlikely situation and this is comic for us as an audience because these grown men are acting in such a childish manner. Wilde’s writing is therfore funny because it allows a Victorian audience to laugh at their own behaviour.
Wilde creates playfulness in The Importance of Being Earnest by following the classic structure of comedy moving from disorder to harmony at the end. By doing this it is obvious that was how the play was intended; as a comedy. Needless to say, Wilde incorporates huge amounts of comic devices in the play that only serve to back up this view: “.”. We can only imagine that when acted on stage the true playfulness is exposed. By using these comic devices such as farce, phatic speech and paradox it opens up an oppurtunity for a Victorian audience to laugh at themselves. Therefore, it is obvious that this cannot be a harsh comment upon society as the nature of the acting represents a very comedic nature.
However, we could also see that the play is satire because it mocks the Victorian fixation on material worth and how this can affect the pursuit of love, this can be seen in Act 1 when Jack talks about where he owns property: “Lady Bracknell. [shaking her head] The unfashionable side”. Wilde here mocks the idea that love is a choice, presenting it instead, through the character of Lady Bracknell, as a matter of worth and fashion as the placement of ones house effects the opportunity for marriage. In this sense, it can be seen as a comedy of manners because Wilde is mocking the unrealistically high expectations of the Victorian upper classes. While this does ridicule the situation, it contains a sharper edge as it displays the lack of free will that people had in the Victorian society and why then Jack and Algernon are deceitful in their actions. Thus Wilde seems to be sending out an implicit message, suggesting that any engagement was not entered into without meticulous organization to suit the people in question. An explicit example of this would be Gwendolen’s reason for marriage in Act 1: “my ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Ernest”. Here we see that there is no romance in her motives as she has fallen in love with a fictitious name. Gwendolen has all the qualities of a conventional Victorian woman and Wilde uses her...

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