Marriage in the Importance of being Earnest

Written by: Prof Jackline
Updated: Sep 07, 2023
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The importance of being earnest employs satire in mocking the Victorian age mindset of, love and social norms of marriage. This comic play ironically expounds on the theme of manners by portraying social conventions in making its audience laugh. Triviality is another theme the play is trying to bring out. Oscar Wilde through that play shows how trivial matters are given more attention by people instead of earnest matters through the relationships and marriages in the play. The importance of being earnest play points out that people took serious ideas regarding relationships and marriage trivially.

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Gwendolen’s stance on marriage and appearance is an example of how marriage was treated trivially. The women are furious when Gwendolen and Cecily discover that Algernon and Jack are not who they had said they were. However, they are eager to pardon the men for their ways once they walk away from them. When they are confronted by Cecily and Gwendolen about their motives, they do not believe them even after explaining to them how their names were Earnest Worthing. They however accept their answers because to them, sincerity and not style is the vital thing in matters of grave importance (Wide, 43). Society’s valuation of style instead of substance was criticized by Wide. According to Gwendolen’s statement, Algernon is the perfect husband only because of style.

The play has brought out style as very important. Algernon uses advanced vocabulary to speak to communicate elaborately. Style and appearance are the constant concerns of Lady Bracknell. Lady Bracknell has a few questions for Jack once she discovers that Gwendolen and Jack are engaged. These questions cut across Jack’s family, hobbies, politics, fortunes, and expectations. The list of questions that Lady Bracknell asks is based on several inferences concerning the purpose and nature of marriage. The fact that background and money are esteemed so highly is a problem for Jack since he does not even know his biological parents. Duty and responsibility are important as well. These subjects show the values that were important in Victorian society.

According to Algernon, marriage is a loveless obligation. He believes that there is no happiness or love in marriage but it is just a contract. Until he meets Cecily, Algernon did not believe in love. According to Lady Bracknell, Algernon is the best marriage candidate because, regardless of him having nothing, he looks at everything and he is an ostentatiously and extremely eligible young man. This statement reveals the aristocratic nature of Lady Bracknell who believed that appearance was more important than personality.

The appearance of things is what matters in Wide’s book. The beauty of everything could only be determined by its face value. The views have however changed in today’s society. The inside value of things has been emphasized in the current society and people have learned that there is a lot more to something than what meets the eye. The analysis of the lack of morality and the experiences within marriage in this play is portrayed to show how serious things in life have been managed with triviality.

The theme of triviality in marriage is also shown through Lane’s view of marriage which is deemed immediately by Algernon as insignificant.  Lane’s view on marriage is very pleasant. According to Algernon, Lane’s view of marriage is kind of lax. He talks about the purpose of marriage if even the lower class cannot set a good example of it.  When many people think that a typical marriage is being married once, Lane challenges them and extends the social borders of marriage. After meeting Cecily is when Algernon starts to believe in marriage.

The Importance of Being Earnest brings out marriage as insignificant. Wide brings attention to Algernon and Cecily, and Gwendolen and Jack as they prepare to get married. These couples speak together and this portrays that regardless of who the people are, they are not unique. Marriage is now portrayed as an important thing that must be done. It is unrealistic that the couples could speak together at the same time, and this is only meant to illustrate that other characteristics are more important than names.

The comedic scenes in The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wide are obtained from how it handles everyday life values. Triviality is handled with seriousness in this play whereas conventionally serious topics are made fun of. Wide creates hilarity at the end of the book by showing how Victorian society lived. He brings his readers to think about how more attention is paid to trivial matters by some people yet disregarding the important and earnest issues. The Victorian virtues did not deem important virtues like fortune, family, marriage, and religion, which must be viewed in new ways as very significant. What counts in a person are their characteristics like personality? Who people truly are on the inside should be given more weight when judging a person instead of looking at their appearance and fortune.

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Marriage in the Importance of Being Earnest. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from