The Double Life in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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The Double Life in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest appears to be a conventional 19th century farce. False identities, prohibited engagements, domineering mothers, lost children are typical of almost every farce. However, this is only on the surface in Wilde's play. His parody works at two levels- on the one hand he ridicules the manners of the high society and on the other he satirises the human condition in general. The characters in The Importance of Being Earnest assume false identities in order to achieve their goals but do not interfere with the others' lives. The double life led by Algernon, Jack, and Cecily (through her diary) is simply another means by which they liberate…show more content…
In Wilde's opinion Victorians who want to retain the respect of the conventional society lead double life- one respectable and one frivolous. He creates a world in which the laws of the society have no power and the double life can be revealed. Bunburyism is a way of life which offers relief from the restrictive social norms. Wilde's characters live in a world in which order is constantly vanishing and they scorn stability and simplicity. "The truth", as Algy says, "is rarely pure and never simple."(13) Algy and Jack fulfil their wishes by the means of lying. They are impostors who use false identities in order to free themselves from the hypocrisy of the convention. Their tricks simply serve them as a way to achieve their moral freedom. The relationship between Jack and Gwendolen undergoes a parody. Gwendolen laughs when Jack asks how she might feel if his name is not Earnest. "Ah, that is clearly a metaphysical speculation", she says, "and like all metaphysical speculation, has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them."(18) This remark of Gwendolen exactly fits the general theme of the play, but in fact the joke is directed to her. Yet at the end of the play, Gwendolen's conviction that she will marry an Earnest and her faith in the name are justified- we understand that Jack's true name is Earnest. The effect
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