Russell Jackson asserts that in The Importance of Being Earnest, 'Wilde simultaneously engaged with and mocked the forms and rules of society' To what extent is Wilde's play critical of society?
The Importance of Being Earnest: a Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play written by, author, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde in 1894 and debuted at St James's Theatre in London in 1895. The Importance of Being Earnest is Wilde's most eminent work and renowned for its abundant quips and entertaining satirical views on Victorian values, marriage and love. He continuously mocks the hypocritical and superficial views of upper-class throughout the play. The pun in the title, is the initial mocking point as the true meaning of 'Earnest', is seriousness and sincerity, contrasting with the characters, as each individual continually tries to convince society that they are honest with strong morals and are able to abide by the strict social rules. Nonetheless Wilde cleverly presents the characters in a way that conveys their moral views as both absurd and trivial, Russell Jackson's assertion on the play is extremely accurate as through many devices Wilde simultaneously engaged with and mocked the forms and rules of society.
Within the play, Wilde mirrors many of the characters, such as Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew who both alike, have great intent on marrying a man by the name of Ernest. Gwendolen believes that she is destined to love someone of the name Ernest as “There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence” Whilst Cecily also admits “It has always been a girlish dream of mine to love a man named Ernest.” In act three, the selective women even declare in unison that “Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. That is all!” refusing the affections of both bachelors based on their birth names. Wilde's mirroring of Gwendolen and Cecily, ridicules the frivolity and superficial nature of women in the Victorian era. Another example of mirrored roles within the play, both Jack Worthing, and Algernon Moncrief have fabricated notorious alter egos, Algernon creating 'Bunbury' in an ongoing attempt to escape social occasions with relations, and Jack becoming his character 'Ernest' as excuse to visit town, admittedly to revisit his relationship with Gwendolen. The mirroring structure of the play, heightens the sense of artificiality associated with the Victorian upper class, Wilde constantly mocks the rules of society and the indistinguishable and emotionally inept people it created. This connects with Richard Jackson's judgement of the play as Wilde commonly engaged with society and mocked it's forms through the mirroring of characters.
Throughout the course of the play, Wilde portrays each of the main characters in a way that reflects his personal views of English aristocracy. Algernon, often displays his negative views on marriage and love, believing that marriage is a social obligation in order to gain respect in social...