"The Importance of Being Earnest." by Oscar Wilde.

Essay by hjunk86High School, 11th grade April 2003

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The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, beyond any reasonable doubt, makes noteworthy comments about the Victorian era. In this "trivial comedy for serious people," Wilde makes some very interesting comments about everyday interaction during 1895. To effectively convey these comments, humorous characters and comical situations are used.

Throughout the play, Wilde brings out numerous observations on the Victorian era in different characters. In the first couple of acts, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff (Algy) are introduced with no jobs; smoking is their "only occupation" in life. The first act also sets up the concept of "Bunburying", where each man makes up an imaginary friend, whom they visit constantly. This lets the English bachelors get out of their households, and allows them to spend time following a life "entirely of pleasure". Lady Bracknell and Gwendolyn are also introduced in act one, and are introduced as socialites.

Bracknell and Gwendolyn portray the social butterflies of the 19th century, being "obliged to call" on other social figures who have new gossip.

Wilde also brings up the idea of marriage in the Victorian era. During the first scene, when Algernon and Jack are chatting mildly, Jack notes that his intention of calling on Algy was to propose to Gwendolyn. Algernon meekly lets Jack know that he would "call that business," not pleasure. Wilde also establishes that there is a recognized code for marriage, and shows the audience that superficial appearance is more important than actual love. This is primarily revealed by Gwendolyn insisting that Jack properly propose to her before she accepts him. The idea of a pre-marriage ritual is also reinforced by Lady Bracknell's questions to Jack before he is allowed to marry Gwendolyn. Also, later in the play when Algernon has learned that he is already engaged...