The importance of being Earnest

Topics: The Importance of Being Earnest, Victorian era, Secret Life Pages: 6 (2156 words) Published: December 29, 2013
Introduction

The Importance of Being Earnest was Oscar’s fourth comedy, and it was to be his last and most outstanding play. ‘The Trivial Comedy for Serious People‘ (in earlier drafts, ‘serious comedy for trivial people’) was first produced by George Alexander at the St James’s Theatre on 14th February 1895 in London. The play was reduced from four to three acts (Raby 161-163). The Importance of Being Earnest contradicts banausic values in a utilitarian age (Varty 205). The comedy of manners and errors had a philosophy, which Wilde interpreted in an interview for the St James’s Gazette. It was “that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality” (McKenna 308).

Wilde exceptionally unified intellectual play with theatrical play by which he accomplished tremendous composition. But Wilde’s accomplishment he gained with The Importance of Being Earnest was suddenly replaced with author’s decline. After Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment the artworks from his production stopped being performed. It reverted to type in 1901, a year after Wilde’s death (Varty 205). The main point of this farcical comedy resides in invention of fictional alter egos of main protagonists Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff under the pretext escaping from strenuous social obligations. The major themes of play are the triviality with which matters as serious as marriage are taken and mockery of Victorian rules. Financial difficulties impelled Wilde to write Earnest extraordinarily quickly. “I am so pressed for money that I don’t know what to do” (McKenna 308). Here can be seen possible interlock between Wilde’s world and protagonist’s way of life. “Dear child, of course you know that Algernon has nothing but his debts to depend upon.” (Ross 163). Thus, it can be argued that in The Importance of Being Earnest, the double life led by the protagonists [Jack and Algernon] corresponds to Wilde's personal life of a fake marriage disguising his homosexuality. The essay is further divided in three main supporting arguments. As in Victorian era as in any other period of society people are influenced and forced to behave like Jack and Algernon. Oscar Wilde was the victim of English indecency laws which reflected the prevailing Victorian attitude towards homosexuality. Instead of deciding for marital life or coming out with his sexuality he is struggling between two worlds and carelessly includes homosexuality in some of his writings.

Each Society Influence Individual’s Life

As in Victorian era as in any other period of society people are influenced and forced to behave like Jack and Algernon. Jack and Algy lead a double life. Wilde was married man, adored father and respected writer, however he had a darker side where his weakness represented social and sexual services within the company of young men. According to Ellman, when Oscar Wilde faced contradictory choices, he chose them both. (Robbins 152) In country house Jack is forced to adopt ‘a very high moral tone on all subjects.‘ But high moral standard has consequences: “can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness”, he creates wicked alter ego Ernest Worthing in London (McKenna 309). ‘Bunburying’ is Algy’s expression for escaping from his social duties and family responsibilities to country where his imaginary and permanently invalid friend Bunbury lives. According to McKenna the Bunbury is some code for ’the love that dare not speak its name’ is implied when Algy states that his friend has ‘exploded’. ‘Exploded!’ Lady Bracknell exclaims: “Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage? I was not aware that Mr Bunbury was interested in social legislation. If so, he is well punished for his morbidity” (McKenna 309). ‘Social legislation’ was expression used as a euphemism for the movement to modify the laws controlling sex between men, and ‘morbidity’ was a word used disparagingly to...

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Ellman, Richard. Oscar Wilde. London: Butler & Tanner, 1988. Print.
Foster, Richard. Wilde as Parodist: A Second Look at the Importance of Being Earnest. National Council of Teachers of English 18.1 (1956): 18-23. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Guy, Josephine, and Small Ian. Studying Oscar Wilde: History, Criticism and Myth. North Carolina: ELT Press, 2006. Print.
McKenna, Neil. The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde. New York: Basic Books, 2005. Print.
Mendelssohn, Michéle. Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Print.
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Robbins, Ruth. Oscar Wilde. India: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011. Print.
Ross, Robert. The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest. London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1993. Print.
Varty, Anne. A Preface to Oscar Wilde. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1988. Print.
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