Response to The Importance of Being Earnest Author: Oscar Wilde

Essay by rosebikiniHigh School, 12th grade June 2004

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The Importance of Being Earnest is very comical play that satirises the conventions and ideals of 18th century society. The characters were all societal cliché's defined by their status and revealed in their relations throughout the play. The comical conventions, which Oscar Wilde uses in the play, are neat epigrams. Either a character's very short statement that pointedly mocks a certain moral or social attitude or a simple paradox that associates two contradictory statements in one. The ideas expressed in the play are that people should treat any trivial matters in life very seriously and anything of importance with 'sincere and studied triviality'-Oscar Wilde

An example of this philosophy is when Algernon agrees on a meal with Jack:

"Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so very shallow of them"

It seems clear that Oscar Wilde had a very balanced way of looking at things.

While he enjoyed his social status and success among the theatres of London and his fashionable lifestyle he could also see the severe artificial and hypocritical nature of this society. He used his knowledge of society and its clichés to relate to his readers/audience who recognised the social taboos that directed the actions of the characters.

This recognition is important throughout the play in the witty remarks and quips used by Wilde to create the mockery on which the play is based. The comic scenes relied on the audience's recognition and acceptance of the social etiquette governing all aspects of the characters' lives. The humour rather than arrogance that is maintained throughout the play is held together by the characters' incredible ignorance of their own faults. Gwendolen is seen as funny because as the readers we see the huge gap between her ideal...