The Importance of Being Earnest Essay

1439 Words6 Pages
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

Oscar Wilde mocked his audience while he entertained them. Perhaps his most loved and well-known work, The Importance of Being Earnest, satirises the manners and affections of the upper-class Victorian society. Satire is a literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, usually with the intent of changing or correcting the subject of the satirical attack. The play focuses on the elite, while making fun of the ludicrousness and extremity of their behaviour. By employing many different types of humour, including witticisms, sarcasm and irony, Wilde produced, arguably, the most popular and enduring pieces of social satire to ever surface from the Victorian era.
The major target
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Although the characters in The Importance of Being Earnest strive to be respectable, none actually believe in the socially-set standards.
As subset of the theme of values, Wilde explores in depth what it means to have a dual identity in Victorian society. Wilde himself knew the nature of the double life, having indulging in activities that were illegal and vilified by “respectable” society while appearing to be a husband and father in a traditional household. The theme of a double life of outward respectability while secretly transgressing society’s moral code is central to the plot of the Importance of Being Earnest. This is epitomised by the concept of “Bunburying”. Bunburying is, defined by Algernon, an elaborate lie allowing one to misbehave or escape social obligations while appearing respectable and dutiful. This idea is summed up in the text when Jack quips “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people.” Through Jack’s wit, Wilde suggests that duplicity is an essential part of existence in late-Victorian society. Both Jack and Algernon struggle to remain free of the restrictions of Victorian convention.
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