Upper Class and Farcical Lady Bracknell Essay

Submitted By MBMUIR
Words: 967
Pages: 4

In Wilde’s play ‘The importance of being earnest’ satire is used to ridicule the Victorian’s characteristics and manors and consequently creating comedy throughout. Wilde uses many linguistic and structural devices in order to mock the Victorian society as his play is intended to criticise the upper-class’ stupidity and triviality. He exemplifies the theory of Victorian hypocrisy through each individual character in the play as one by one; they contradict their own beliefs and “morals”.
Marriage is a very strong theme in the play and is mentioned in almost every scene. Wilde uses it as a catalyst for the chaos, conforming to the common conventions of comedy, as he creates this chaos right from the beginning off the play. It is made apparent that Jack and Algernon have contrasting views on the subject as Algernon takes a negative approach to marriage, expressing that “it is simply washing one’s clean linen in public”. By refreshing this well-known cliché, Wilde creates a sense of negativity and awkwardness, as prior to this, we are told of Jack’s wishes to marry Gwendolen, therefore emphasising the two characters differences. Algernon also makes the situation awkward when he declares that there is nothing “romantic in proposing” and adding to his witty dialogue, he comments on the pretence of Victorian society, which lives by the strict rules and regulations as well as the common morality and universal values. Algernon intentionally rebels against the status quo and we empathise with him as none of the characters are able to understand his absurd ideas. The audience would also find Algernon’s views on marriage unusual as it was rare for someone of his class to almost break the rules or paths that have been made for him. Wilde uses satire later on in the play when contradicting Algernon’s beliefs as we see him fall in love and propose to Cecily. He juxtaposes Algernon’s attitude that marriage is “demoralizing” with Jacks outlook on marriage being optimistic when he states he is “in love with Gwendolen” from the very start and does not give up hope on their marriage at any point. One could argue that Wilde uses this contrast in Jack and Algernon’s views to emphasis the absurdities whereby everyone must oblige to the same rules in terms of marriage laid out by the aristocracy of the Victorian era during this time, middle and upper-classes were living under these severe restraints.
Wilde has both of the male characters in the play live twin lives, creating the idea of Victorian hypocrisy as their “high class” and “morals” are contradicted. This use of inversion and disorder also adds to the comical effects Wilde intentionally creates. Jack creates a fictional brother so he can escape his responsibilities, just as Algernon creates a fictional “invalid” friend “Bunbury”, allowing him to get out of family commitments. The word “Earnest” is commonly thought of in relation to kindness and sincerity, however both Jack and Algernon use the name to get what they want, ironically the name gains them happiness and love. By doing so Wilde suggests that these characters are willing to forget their status within society to obtain their personal goals. This idea of morality and the constraints it imposes on society is predominant through the play as Wilde has each character represent this theory. Although one may assume that Jack and Algernon have done wrong by lying about who they are, Wilde also implies that female characters of the play are just as self-indulged. Gwendolen expresses how she ‘knew [she] was going to marry someone of the name Earnest” which would imply that personalty is not of up most importance to her. Similarly as Cecily plans her marriage to ‘Earnest’ before she has even met him.
One could suggest that Lady Bracknell is used as a