The Importance of being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest uses satire to mock the social norms of marriage, love, and mindset in the Victorian Age. It is comedic play dealing with manners and ironically portrays social conventions to make the audience laugh. Triviality is one the themes in the play. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde teaches us how people pay more attention to trivial matter than serious ones or Earnest ones through the marriages and relationships through the play. The concept of relationships and marriage in The Importance of Being Earnest convey that serious ideas were taken trivially.
An example of how marriage was treated trivially is Gwendolen’s stance on appearances and marriage. When Gwendolen and Cecily find out that Jack and Algernon are not who they say they are the women are furious. When they walk away from the men they are eager to pardon them for their ways. When Cecily and Gwendolen confront them about their motives they do not believe them, when they explain why and how both their names were Earnest Worthing. They both accept their answers anyway because “in matters of grave importance, style not sincerity is the vital thing” (Wilde, 43). Wilde criticized society’s valuing of style over substance. Algernon is the perfect husband, according to Gwendolen’s statement, because he is all style and has nothing.
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Style is very important in the play. Algernon’s uses an elaborate way to speak by using an advanced vocabulary. Lady Bracknell is constantly concerned with appearances and style. When Lady Bracknell finds out about Jack and Gwendolen’s engagement, Lady Bracknell “has a few questions to put to [Jack]” (12). Lady Bracknell decided to question Jack about his family, fortune, politics, is hobbies, expectations and more. Lady Bracknell’s list of interview questions are based on a set of inferences about the nature and purpose of marriage. Money is very important and family background, which is a problem for Jack because he does not know of his biological parents. Responsibility and duty are important. These subjects show what the important values were in Victorian Society.
Algernon believes that marriage is a loveless obligation. To him, marriage is just a contract; it is not about love or happiness. He does not believe in love till he meets Cecily. He is soon engaged to Cecily. Lady Bracknell thinks Algernon is a perfect candidate for marriage because, “Algernon is an extremely, [she] may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man. He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire?”(43). This quote further proves that aristocrats, like Lady Bracknell, cared more about appearance than personality.
In Wilde’s book, the appearance of things is what really counts. Everything that is supposed to be beautiful is supposed to be taken at face value. In today’s society, the views have changed. We have been taught that “it is on the inside that counts” and that there is more to something than just at face value. The view that serious things in life should be managed with triviality is a common theme in the play through the analysis of the appearances within marriages and lack of morality.
Another example of the theme of triviality in marriage and relationships is when Lane’s view on marriage is immediately deemed as insignificant by Algernon. Lane views marriage very pleasantly. Algernon thinks that “Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax” (2). He begins to talk about how if the lower class cannot even set a good example for marriage, then what is the purpose of them. Lane challenged and extends social borders of marriage when many people think that being married once is a typical marriage. Algernon does not believe in marriage until he meets Cecily.
Marriage is seen as significant in The Importance of Being Earnest. As Jack and Gwendolen get ready for marriage along with Cecily and Algernon, Wilde bring attention to the couples. The couples speak together, which shows that it does not matter who the people are, as they are not unique. Marriage is portrayed as an deed that must be done. The couples speaking together at the same time is not realistic and is meant to signify that names should not matter compared to other characteristics.
Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest obtains a lot of its comedic scenes from the way in which it handles the everyday life values. The play repeatedly makes fun of conventionally serious topics while handling trivialities with seriousness. In the end of the book, Wilde creates hilarity and shows the way the Victorian Society lived. He makes his readers think about how people pay more attention to trivial matter than serious ones or Earnest ones. Sacred things such as religion, family, marriage, and fortune should have new views — deemed not so important as the Victorian virtues were. Characteristics in a person, like their personality, is what really counts. Appearance and fortune should not matter compared to who people truly are on the inside.