Oscar Wilde Constanly Mocks Victorian Society in the Importance of Being Earnest but Is Ultimately Approved

1559 Words Feb 17th, 2013 7 Pages
Act III offers happy resolution to the problems of identity and marriage that drive much of the humor in the previous acts. Wilde continues to mock the social customs and attitudes of the aristocratic class. He relentlessly attacks their values, views on marriage and respectability, sexual attitudes, and concern for stability in the social structure.
Wilde attacks social behavior with the continuation of speeches by his characters that are the opposite of their actions. While Cecily and Gwendolen agree to keep a dignified silence, Gwendolen actually states that they will not be the first ones to speak to the men. In the very next line she says, "Mr. Worthing, I have something very particular to ask you." Wilde seems to be saying that
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It was not at all unusual for aristocrats to have children born out of wedlock, but society turned its head, pretended not to know about those children, and did not condemn their fathers.
The gulf between the upper class and its servants is explored in the scenes with Merriman and Prism. When Lady Bracknell unexpectedly shows up at Jack's, Merriman coughs discretely to warn the couples of her arrival. One can only imagine his humorous thoughts as he watches the wealthy tiptoe around each other and argue about what should be important. When Lady Bracknell hears the description of Prism and recognizes her as their former nanny, she calls for Miss Prism by shouting "Prism!" without using a title in front of her name. Imperiously, Lady Bracknell divides the servant from the lady of the manor. Wilde's audience would recognize this behavior on the part of the servants and the upper class. The stuffy class distinctions defined the society in which they lived.
In an age of social registers, Lady Bracknell laments that even the Court Guides have errors. In the next breath, she discusses bribing Gwendolen's maid to find out what is happening in her daughter's life. In Act III she also reveals that her aristocratic brother's family entrusted their most precious possession — Jack — to a woman who is more interested in her handbag and manuscript than in what happens to the baby in her charge. Wilde seems to be
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