The Importance Of Being Earnest Final Essay

Submitted By Kaisha-Lal-Jones
Words: 1623
Pages: 7

G.B Shaw wrote “It amused me of course, but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with the sense of having wasted my evening.” How far do you agree with his view on The Importance of Being Earnest? Dubbed as “linguistic perfection”1 with meticulous theatricality, Oscar Wilde constructs ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ to be a scintillating satire which exposes the moral decadence of Victorian England between a vacuous quartet of pseudo males infatuated with pretentious women concluding in an absurd denouement. Embellished with nonsensical witticisms and ironic similes, I bulk against Shaw’s opinion of the morality play acting as a farce as Wilde undermines and parodies every aspect of Victorianism. Whilst also celebrating aestheticism and individualism.
Rather than just farce or melodrama with their sense of ludicrous events, Wilde weaves into the horatian satire ideas of ridiculing the society which closeted him. Cardew naively crafts a simile of how “flowers are as common here… as people are in London”; the semantic syllepsis epitomises how the eloquent, barbed and epigrammatic language of the protagonists tends to lack value which enhances the triviality exposing the vapidness of Victorian aristocracy. Moreover Wilde subtly highlights how ignorance abounded and had a detrimental effect during the emergence of a strong bourgeoisie social class in which pivotal political issues are overshadowed by pettiness and frivolity as when Jack states his preference as a “liberal unionist” which matters only if it affects the Matrona’s social obligations rather than the future of Ireland. The upper echelons only take note, it seems, if it disturbed their hedonistic lifestyle. Additionally Lady Bracknell, the epitome of an institutionalised vice’s swift unease, when questioning “was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage?” evokes the abhorrence and anxiety of the unrest of the downtrodden proletariats who caused an actual riot n Trafalgar Square. Adhering to the Relief theory, derived from Sigmund Freud, the audience could thus cachinnate due to the rise of tension and repressed energy surrounding societal issues which exposes the sexual tension of farce as well as touching upon the superficiality of the hollow social codes. Inversions are laced throughout the Menandrian styled play which Wilde potently employs to invert societal assumptions of gender through Separate Sphere ideology. The dogma prescribes different spheres for both genders, as the notion dictates for males they should inhabit the public sphere (commerce and law etc.) whereas females should infiltrate the proper sphere of domestic life. Wilde hilariously, yet poignantly conjures through Lady Bracknell, acting as a female Senex, how “the home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man” which enhances Wilde’s belief that roles of gender should be interchangeable. However I also believe Wilde harnessed the Adulscens, Jack, to partake in both the proper sphere as Uncle Jack and within the public sphere as Ernest interchangeably which hints to the “Green World”2 of comedy which is suggestive of a hidden fundamental message of how “without exercising restraint on others, or suffering it ever… he will be more himself… When man is happy he is in harmony with himself.”3 Even though many critics argue the stock characters, some of Commedia dell’arte, are just that- static- I see the play as working on far more levels. Through witticisms and ripostes, Wilde cultivates ideals about education. Wilde enlists a simile through Lady Bracknell: “Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone” which explores the precarious state of the upper classes, evoking how curiosity can kill which is echoed in Greek mythology and has Biblical resonance; Pandora’s Box and the story of Adam and Eve. Alternatively it could be a nod towards fertility and marriage which is indicative of Comedy of Manners. However philistinism is “exotic”, a