Hypocrisy in Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde Works
“The topic I will be covering for this paper is the similarities and differences in regards to hypocrisy displayed in Charles dickens novel, “Hard times,” and Oscar Wilde’s play, “The importance of being Earnest.” Each author portrayed the impact hypocrisy could have on those involved, both indirectly and directly and the consequences of it. After reading “Hard times,” I felt that Charles Dickens view may have been more realistic and geared towards reality. Not only were the events in his novel based on true experiences that people may have faced during those hard times, but it exposed how dangerous hypocrisy could be. Dickens idea for hypocrisy was that at first glance it is seemingly harmful. When it is left unattended and neglected, the consequences can be very detrimental to some people. His stance was, eventually hypocrites are exposed in unforgettable ways and are unmercifully handled by their awaiting Karma. Oscar Wilde had an opposing idea for hypocrisy. According to Wilde, it can be humorous and rewarding. His view was that being a hypocrite will lead to no causalities and is not a worrisome characteristic. In his play, hypocrisy was completely harmless and after it was exposed, it served as a beneficial relief.
In Dickens novel there were quite a few characters that displayed hypocrisy. The first character I will discuss is Mr. Gradgrind. His worldview was based on nothing but facts. He preached that it was all we needed in life to survive. When it came to his daughter, Louisa, marrying Mr. Bounderby his reliance on facts could have saved her from her suffering. His views of the world led him to disregard natural human feelings, but if he had payed attention to the facts she presented when he asked her if she would marry it would have been clear she did not want to. After Louisa had been married to, Mr. Bounderby for years filled with regret and resentment she told her father what he should have already known. She was unhappy with her life and the way she was forced to live. He shielded his children from the world, even though he has never been himself. As a result, his children suffered tremendously from their deprivation of basic human needs and the chance to explore and experience life. Mr. Bounderby, the next character I will discuss, hypocrisy had a negative effect on the lives of others too.
Mr. Bounderby presented himself as the man he wished to be. He used a fictional childhood to gain sympathy from others and pretend to understand what true hard times are like. Dickens exposed how unsympathetic he really was with his first encounter with Cissy. Her father-abandoned cissy, just as Mr. Bounderby claimed to have been by his mother. He was unable to feel sympathy for her and he wanted to leave her behind. Mr. Gradgrind had the ability to feel human emotions in that moment, even though he is an advocate for disregarding them and not letting them lead us in the decisions we make. Instead of Mr. Bounderby being understanding, he was very impatient about the situation. Mr. Gradgrinds insisted that before they were to depart Cissy must, “be sure to know your own mind (Dickens, 1961).” This quote was very hypocritical, considering that he does not know his own mind himself.
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The next noteworthy character is Mr. Gradgrind son, Thomas. His father’s teaching failed him and he turned out to be a selfish despicable person. He is much aware of the flaws in his father system, but was lucky enough to be able to escape, leaving his sister behind to fend for herself. He sacrificed her hand in marriage to be able to use Mr. Bounderby as an escape pod. Thomas feels that Mr. Bounderby is to blame for his sister suffering. Similar to Mr. Bounderby, the man he despises and feels nothing but hatred for, he never owns up to his wrongs. His conniving and sacrificing ways also costed Stephen Blackpool, the most honest character in this novel, his life in the end.
Stephen Blackpool was a worker for Mr. Bounderby. He and the other workers are an example of how Mr. Bounderby hypocrisy can cause a detrimental rippling effect on the lives of innocent people. Mr. Bounderby is obligated to make sure they are compensated for their hard work and are under livable conditions. Stephen is a workers that is aware that Mr. Bounderby needs his workers just as much as they need him. This is something Mr. Bounderby’s hypocritical ways will never allow him to admit. He claims to understand hard times, but he really does not. In his mind, he believes he is doing all that he can, but that is not true.
Oscar Wilde communicated hypocrisy to his readers by using different marriage scenarios. Jack, the main character in his play, is madly in love with a woman named Gwendolyn. He led Gwendolyn to believe that his name is Earnest and never mentioned the truth about who his family members were. Her mother, Lady Bracknell, and her cousin Algernon refused to let him marry her. Algernon uncovered his lies and thought what he was doing was ridiculous. He insisted that he would never resort to such a lie.
Algernon believed lying about his name made jack an untrustworthy person, not fit to marry his cousin. Without jack’s permission, he decided to go to meet Cecily, posing as Jack’s fictional brother Earnest. Despite how he felt, Algernon decided to do the same exact thing that Jack did and fell in love with jack’s ward, Cecily. Cecily fell in love with Algernon and he proposed to her. Now that Algernon is in the same situation as Jack, he finally give his blessings for him to marry his cousin Gwendolyn.
Cecily and Gwendolyn both display the same hypocrisy. They both are convinced that they are in love with the name Earnest and would never and could never love a man with any other name. Rather than being in love with the actual person, they claim it is the name that is most appealing to them. When they are both enlightened with the truth, they change their minds. It appears as though Wilde intended for the name Earnest to symbolize the painted image they possessed in their minds of a dream husband and that they were simply looking for someone to fill that void in their life. In reality, they just desired to be wives. I think Wilde believes that this is the hypocritical ways of many women in society.
Lady Bracknell believe that she know what is best for her daughter, Gwendolyn. She claims that the decisions she make are in the best interest of her daughter. It does not seem that she is acting in that way, since she never once considers her daughters happiness. When questioning Jack, she was mostly concerned with his assets rather than his love for her. She presented herself as if she knew all the key characteristics of a husband and had a special detecting eye for finding who would be a perfect fit for Gwendolyn, but Jack being a liar was not apparent to her. There were also some hypocrisy displayed by her in terms of gender.
Algernon was able to obtain marital blessings form Lady Bracknell a lot more easily in comparison to Gwendolyn. Her mother was being very tough on jack for wanting to marry Gwendolyn. Jack was also reluctant to consent to his ward marrying Algernon. Not knowing what else to do, he offered Cecily hand in marriage only if he received consent to marry Gwendolyn. It worked out for everyone in the end, even with the presence of hypocrisy.
The uniqueness of both storylines in regards to hypocrisy was very intriguing. Dickens reveals how much of a dangerous role hypocrisy can play on lives, while Wilde communicates that it can often times be harmless. When it comes to love, there are times hypocrisy can work in your favor and other times where it can lead to dead ends. The love conquest of Jack and Algernon was an example of times hypocrisy can have benefits. Louisa love life, unfortunately led to dead ends, because of Mr. Bounderby and her father’s hypocrisy. Dickens displays that when people are faced with hard times, hypocrisy can be very destruction.”