History : the Victorian Era

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The Victorian era takes place during the reign of Queen Victoria. Looking up to her majesty and her morals, the British population at the time was greatly concerned with the expectancy to adhere to her personality traits. These traits include the following; strong ethics, responsibility, abstaining from indulgence, self-discipline, and most importantly, the aspect of honesty. Oscar Wildes’ play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is written after the reign of Queen Victoria, during the modern era. Many people of this era, including Wilde, saw how these values, being so important in the eyes of the people, were often fabricated to an extent where it was contradictory of their beliefs. Wilde uses the characters of this play as instruments to embody these Victorian attitudes and how absurd (irrational?) they can make the actions of people during the era.

Many of the main characters in Wilde’s play have dramatized characteristics that portray these Victorian attitudes. The first example is a wealthy, upper-class landowner. His personality traits include depicting himself as an honest, hardworking and trustworthy man. However, the irony already begins when he is discovered to have an alternate identity that he uses to escape this life of modesty and never-ending depiction of being an honest man. This is used largely to poke fun at the people of the Victorian era’s attachments to the ideals of honesty, or at least the portrayal of being an honest person. The next character worthy of noting is a woman who exemplifies the most pompous and prudent attitudes of the aristocratic Victorian morals. She is the main antagonist of the play, because her actions, which are largely encouraged by the Victorian Values, are always representative of her desire to maintain her wealth and current social position. She also has power over who her daughter marries, and bases this solely on not what her daughter wants, but what would help maintain the family’s wealth and social position.

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The first character introduced, and the main character of the play is Mr. Jack Worthing. Jack is a wealthy land owner in Hertfordshire. He was granted his fortune by his adopted father who found him as a baby in a handbag at the Victoria train station. Jack has some responsibilities throughout his day to day life, but mostly lives in comfort due to his wealth. Jack goes off to London regularly to extricate his troublesome brother, Earnest. The catch is, Earnest is fabricated and does not exist. Jack uses Earnest as an excuse to indulge in the pleasures of city life. He uses him to escape his family at his country home, and as a cover to his acquaintances in London. When he travels to London, he takes on the persona of Earnest. It’s clear that irony is intended from these actions, as the name “Earnest” exemplifies honesty, one of the most important Victorian values. Mr. Worthing is using this name to literally lead a double life of deception while indulging in forbidden pleasures, all while leading others to believe he is taking responsibility for his burdensome brother. These actions are certainly not earnest.

In the Modern era that the play was written in, the activities Jack does while he’s in London would not normally be considered taboo. Jack’s character is admired because of his ingenious excuses to get away with his desires while simultaneously keeping up the depiction of an honest man. David Parker puts it nicely in his article Oscar Wilde’s Greatest Farce. He says, “We admire the hero because he has the courage to obey his impulses and because his tricks render him protean–free from imposed identity.” Although this makes for a lovable character, the Victorians would not agree with these actions. They would expect him to continuously uphold his persona of a decent and honest man, so the deception is necessary.

The most memorable and humorous character from Wilde’s play is Lady Bracknell. Wilde uses the most preposterous of the Victorian values to give her distinct personality. Lady Bracknell is the mother of a woman named Gwendolyn, whom jack wishes to marry. As Jack is proposing, Lady Bracknell catches sight of them and demands he stand up immediately. She informs jack that he is not on her list of eligible men for her daughter to marry.

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History : The Victorian Era. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/history-the-victorian-era/