Trivialization in the Victorian Era
Oscar Wilde trivializes serious aspects of life and makes it look like they are of lesser importance. In the fictional play, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, published in 1898, author Oscar Wilde, characters are used to make fun at the upper class and criticize their ways of life to make them look like they are of lesser importance. Oscar Wilde uses characters such as Algernon, Lady Bracknell, and Cecily to trivialize society and show how aspects of life such as marriage can be taken advantage of and made to look like it is of lesser importance.
Lady Bracknell is used by Oscar Wilde to make fun of the upper class and trivialize important aspects of life such as marriage to make it look like it is of lesser importance. Lady Bracknell is a woman of the higher class because she married herself into it. She continuously tells everyone about her place in the upper class and makes fun of people while doing it such as Algernon. Lady Bracknell says that no one should ever make fun or disrespect people of society because she says that the only people who do that are the people that are struggling to get into society themselves.
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She also shows her views on marriage while speaking to Gwendolen because she says, “When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself…,” (page 331). She thinks marriage has nothing to do with the concept of love, but everything to do with the social class of society.
She thinks Gwendolen should look at the social class of a man so she can marry into the higher class of society. Gwendolen does not agree with this at all because she thinks you should be able to marry the man of your life even if he is lower on the social ladder. Lady Bracknell’s views on marriage are that she does not like it because she thinks of marriage as an opportunity to raise your place on the social class, not to find the man or woman of your dreams and live happily ever after. Lady Bracknell trivializes serious aspects of life, especially marriage because she takes advantage of the concept and uses it to her advantage in the society which makes it look like it is of lesser importance.
Oscar Wilde uses Algernon to prove that serious aspects of life such as marriage trivialize society in the Victorian Era. Algernon is a huge character in, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, and he has some interesting views on marriage. He thinks marriage causes you to lose hope or is disheartening because you are giving your whole heart to one person for the rest of your entire life.
It only takes one bad decision to change all of that which is why Algernon is so hesitant on marrying the woman of his dreams. Gwendolen and Cecily only want to marry Algernon because of his fake name, Ernest. This is another reason why Algernon is hesitant and unsure of the topic of marriage because they only want to marry him for his name, not his looks, personality, or overall character as a person, which is not what a normal person thinks about when they are picking out the love of there life. Lady Bracknell uses the concept of marriage on Algernon as a tool for social class or nobility.
When Algernon is speaking to Jack about marriage, he says some very important lines that are key to his opinions about it which are, “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact,” (page 323).
Wilde uses Algernon to trivialize marriage and make it of lesser importance in this quote. Algernon is saying that if he ever gets married, he will try to forget the fact. This is not a positive view on marriage whatsoever because no married couple wants to forget the fact that they are married. Marriage is a very positive thing in society, but Algernon is saying this elsewhere. He also thinks the lower class has no moral responsibility.
Algernon says, “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 no sense of moral responsibility,” (page 322). Algernon seems to think throughout the whole of the play that marriage is an act of business in their society and has no sense of pleasure too. He thinks you have to be married in order to maintain respect in the Victorian Era. Algernon trivializes important aspects of life such as marriage to make them of lesser importance in society.
Oscar Wilde uses Cecily and Miss Prism to make fun of the upper class and trivialize serious aspects of life such as marriage to make it look like it is of little importance. Miss Prism always makes fun at the upper class in society alongside Cecily in, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, and it shows who they really are as people. Miss Prism jokes around with Cecily about education, and she tells Cecily that, “Surely such a utilitarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather Moulton’s duty than yours? Especially at a moment when intellectual pleasures await you,” (page 339).
Miss Prism makes fun of the social class in this quote because she thinks Cecily should leave the job of watering flowers to the lower class or peasants while she works on her school lessons. Miss Prism thinks people in the upper class only get to do upper-class things and don’t deserve to be doing peasant work, and she thinks too much of it. Miss Prism thinks that people with higher education have a higher chance to be married in the future.
She thinks that if Cecily sticks to her school lessons and not watering the flowers, she can attract more men of the upper class, which will upper her chances at marrying someone wealthier in the future. Cecily does not think that much into marriage because she wants to marry Algernon because of his fake name, Ernest. This symbolizes how important marriage is because there is a lot more to marriage than just the name of the person. Roger Sale, the author of Being Earnest, said in his article, “Oscar Wilde perceived that something new, and for him threatening, had happened to marriage as the result of the population explosion of London and the accompanying changes in the way people lived and worked.”
Miss Prism alongside Cecily makes fun of the social class and marriage which is not something good to do. Marriage is not something to joke about because it is a serious topic which can be seen throughout the essay. Wilde uses Miss Prism and Cecily to trivialize important aspects of life such as marriage as well as make fun of the social class to make it look like it is of lesser importance.
Oscar Wilde uses characters inside the story to trivialize aspects of life such as marriage and show how it is a social duty in the Victorian Society. In the fictional play, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, published in 1898, author Oscar Wilde, characters are used to poke fun at the upper class and criticize their ways to make them look like they are of lesser importance. Wilde trivializes serious aspects of life and makes those aspects of life look like they are of lesser importance in society.