The Era of Class and Play of Satire
The victorian Era is remembered as an era of class, structure, and matrimony. It is a time in which men and women had certain duties society had expected them to follow. The years between 1835 and 1900, the Victorian Era, was a time of great change. The society of England represented various classes, rules, and lifestyles. Furthermore, both men and women had their own ettiquetes. Although a respectable era, it is brought up in several plays and novels of literature which may agree or disagree in the ideas of society. Literature is defined as a timeless piece which defines and elaborates several subjects no matter the opinion.
In the play, The Importance of being Earnest, the author, Oscar Wilde portrays the timeless structure of the Victorian society through the element of satire. He introduces two main characters, Jack and Algernon, who differ in beliefs and viewpoints on society and its structure. Wilde seems to portray the characters as foils of one another. Although Wilde respects the aspects that make up the Victorian Era, he presents his opinion in several ways throughout the play. In the play, Wilde reveals the differences between the behavior of the upper class and that of the lower class. Members of the upper class display a great deal of pride and pretense, feeling that they are inherently entitled to their wealth and higher social position. Furthermore, Wilde satirizes the Victorian social structure by depicting the flaws of relationships that are based on the superficiality of money, lineage, as well as status and portrays the descriptive behavior of that of Algernon and his belief of the sole purpose of the “lower class”. In the drama, Algernon states, “Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility. (17.Wilde)” This stating by Algernon works together to build a case that portrays the social status of the Victorian Era as explained in the comedic drama due to the viewpoint of Algernon himself. Analyzed by satire, Algernon thinks in a way in which lower classes should set a moral example for the classes of the the wealthy like that of aristocracy.
Despite, him believing that aristocrats are corrupt, he seems to have no problem with its hypocrisy. Based on Algernon’s viewpoint, it seems as though the social status of the Victorian era was of a segregated one. The upper class, as of any other country, was that of the wealthy and of the intellect. It seems as though however many did not respect the wealthy for in the novel, “Social Transformations of the Victorian Age”, Escott states, “I respect the aristocracy of birth and of intellect, I do not respect the aristocracy of wealth”(13. Escott). It is as if it proceeds upon a confused view of the social principles of both statuses. It is the argument and principles of the aristocracy of birth and of wealth should be integrated with one another. As in the novel, “The importance of being Earnest” it seems of the Victorian England that if one is an orphan or of no parents, they are of a dishonor or that of a lower class. As the novel continues into the depths of Act I, Algernon and Jack argue back and forth on the ideals of marriage and social class. As Jack had already purposed, Algernon warns him of the class a married man may have once he is introduced to marriage. In the play, Algernon states, “…Is marriage so demoralizing as that…I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand”(Wilde 253) The following quote works to build a case that portrays the social class of first years of marriage because Algernon explains the difficulty of the beginning of marriage as a time where no matter the wife, marriage will become restricting and overall result in a pallid lifestyle. He continues by making conversation with his servant, Lane, on how champagne is “never as good as when in the home of a single man.” In a way, the author portrays the opinion of Algernon as a way of foreshadowing what will happen once Earnest marries Gwendolen. It seems as though no matter the situation, Algernon believes as long as one comes from a high class and no marriage, what possible hardships are there? Despite the contrasting views of marriage today, the Victorian era was an era in which such views were excepted.
In the novel,“Transformations in the Victorian Era,” Escott states, “In the Victorian era women were to get married to a man of the same or a better social status” (13. Escott). In comparison to the novel, “The Importance of being Earnest,” Escott explains the expectations of women in the years of queen Victoria. It seems as though like men such as Algernon, women were too much to handle. Women had certain views just as men had. Women believed their duties were to their husbands and households. Despite so, men, like that of Algernon, believed one would never satisfy. Further Adding to the married lives of those who had lived in the Victorian Era, it seems as though every woman had to do something, somewhere or somehow, in order to please follow people around them.
In the play, Algernon states, “I beg your pardon, but I thought that every woman had a mission of some kind, nowadays” (Wilde.38). This quote further explains the reason of women in the Victorian Era and builds a case on the matter that women had expectations in the Age in England. It further tells the reason as to why so many women had married out of arrangement or financial issues. Comparingly, in history, woman had generally agreed to Wilde’s statement because many woman had also married for the pleasure of having a higher status. In the novel, Escott states, “Girls usually married in their early to mid-20s. Typically, the groom would be five years older. Not only did this reinforce the ‘natural’ hierarchy between the genders, but it also made sound financial sense” (Escott.19). The following quote Escott states completely explains the roles of woman and the expectations they had to fill. He states that it solved many problems not only for women but men as well. The age difference and social class all had come together as a puzzle piece had in the eyes of society and the rules of the Victorian Age. As the play defines the cruel expectations of society in the Victorian Age, Wilde portrays these standards in several ways throughout the play. In the play, the author states, “The precept as well as the practice of the primitive church was districtly against matrimony. (Wilde 40)” The following standards go to show that the social class of the Victorian age had specific standards and rules society must follow because the primitive church believed that all marriage was wrong.
The belief that all men should remain single leads to the public temptation of men and women, which follows under the stereotype of the Victorian Age. Furthermore, which may lead women to go astray which may result in the flipping of a pictured class structure. In comparison to literature, in history, the primitive church had once existed as a time in which men and women had remained unmarried and was considered a normal view. In the past, respectable men were expected to marry the best of the mannered women. In the novel, The Victorian Frame of Mind: 1830-1870, the author states, “They know they are sinning, they know – or should know – that they are increasing the demand for the supply of instant pleasure…but do not dare offend their family, alienate their friends, and lose their social position by making what the world calls an imprudent marriage…The law of socirty contradicts the law of God (Houghton. 385).” Comparably, the views of history and litterature somewhat connect in ways that describes the expectations and actions of men in that respectable era. Although knowledgeable of their sinning, their lies are hidden from the world; the title of a “respectable gentleman” is expected since their lies are unknown. The following is where ego and pride is at its finest; society builds into the structure that was once considered a norm.
In Victorian England, had it not been the shut down of the opinion of the primitive church, then such opinions of people would still be considered. In the play, Wilde portrays the opinions of men and women of the Victorian era through the characters that build into the setting, Victorian England. It is as though Wilde is using satire in way which ironically claims the opposite of what the duty of the Victorian society really is. In the play, Algernon states, “My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest degree.” Algernon, again is exposing himself in a such a way as that his duty, despite most men, is to seek out the pleauses of himself and satisfy his own needs. He believes that is the duty of men and that is how it should stay. Ironically, it seems as though he is stating that his city life does not interfere with the importance of his life. Although percieved as such to many readers, Wilde uses satire in a way to portray the belief of Algernon is a true gentleman and that no such pleasures witll come in place of his chivalry. Throughout the play, Algernon is portrayed as the foil of Jack. No matter it be his viewpoints, beliefs, or definition of a true gentleman. Similarly, in history, men of any class believed that no matter the sins they have commited, they were indeed true gentlemen. Despite so, men were very precise when marrying into a certan class.
They believed “ to marry someone of less social standing was considered marrying beneath oneself”(Avictorian) People believed that people of the same class must marry in order to keep up the level of “royalty.” Moreover, despite the time that has past since the age of victorian, people today still believe in marriage as an aspect between two people of the same class. In the play, The Importance of being Earnest, Wilde successfully incorporates realism and satire through several characters of different social structures. It tells of the story of two men, Jack and Algernon, who create ‘earnest’ to escape their tiresome lives. Despite so, they are tangled in their own lies which result in deception and disguise. The descriptive plot mocks the sensibility of the Victorian Age in several ways throughout the play.
Moreover, he portrays the social class of Victorian England through marriage, wealth, and idiosyncrasy. As the novel continues into the depths of Act I, Algernon and Jack argue back and forth on the ideals of marriage and social class. As Jack had already purposed, Algernon warns him of the class a married man may have once he is introduced to marriage. As the play defines the cruel expectations of society in the Victorian Age, Wilde portrays these standards comprehensively througout the story. Furthermore, Wilde satirizes the Victorian social structure by depicting the flaws of relationships that are based on the superficiality of money, lineage, as well as status and portrays the descriptive behavior of that of Algernon and his belief of the sole purpose of the “lower class”. Although mocked by many, the Victorian Age still remains of a time of hierachy based on social and class order.
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The Era of Class and Play of Satire. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-era-of-class-and-play-of-satire/
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