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The Importance of Being Earnest

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Introduction

The play ‘’ The Importance of Being Earnest’’ mocks societal mores, marriage ad the search of love. In Victorian times, social standards and attitudes such as earnestness was one of the key social values. The author criticizes ideas such as respectability, moral attitudes, self-sacrifice and high mindedness’s. These values are associated with the successes of Victorian Britain (Caggiano, 2011). He reveals in an elaborate manner that these are the elements worn as masks by the ruling elite. Behind this mask, the leaders engage in exactly the opposite. Wilde exposes the moral hypocrisy surrounding the Victorian establishment. The protagonist will go to extreme length to avoid responsibility but give self-interest the priority.  Religion attempted to change the lower class and the upper class by advocating for earnestness in the early days. The play mocks serious people for their inability to see trivial comedies.   For illustration, men follow matrimonial rites but ridiculously excuse foibles. Earnest is also a gay code. For instance, if you are interested in identifying someone’s’ sexual identity, you would question whether they are earnest (Miller, 2010).

Styles

The play is a farce. The audience is expected to accept the impossible for some time. This aspect makes the play to differ from a comedy.  The characters should appear real to enable one to understand the play (Roland, 2008).  In any comedy, the personage is key and should be real. Therefore, the play is cleverly constructed to make it a farce. Most of the characters are caricatures.  The author shows his skills in use of clever dialogues, epigrams and puns. Other styles that the author has employed are the use of social drama, use of gentle parody and melodrama (Miller, 2010).

The Plot

The main character in the play is called Jack when he is in the country and Earnest when in town. He is in love with a woman who is interested in a man named Earnest. The woman wishes the quality of being earnest in her future husband. The play begins with young man Algernon Moncrieff receiving his friend Earnest. The purpose of Earnest visit is to propose to Moncrieff’s cousin called Gwendolen.  Gwendolen refuses Earnest’s proposal and demands that he tells her why the inscription “From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack." Is on his cigarette casing. Faced with this demand, he admits that he is living a dual life. While at the country, he pretends that his name is john or Jack and that he takes care his younger brother who lives in London whose name is Earnest (Caggiano, 2011).

If he is in the city, he is libertine Earnest. Anyway, he refuses to tell the location of his countryside estate. His friend Algernon also admits that he has been pretending to have an invalid friend named Bunbury (Roland, 2008). He also claims that his friend lives in the country and he can pay him a visit as often as he wishes. Gwendolen’s mother lady Bracknell call on Algernon and jack takes the opportunity in their absence and proposes to Gwendolen (Miller, 2010). She gives in but it seems that it because of his name Earnest.  Jack agrees to give her the address to his country estate. The play illustrates attempts by two characters’ apparent desire to be christened with the same name in order to get the woman.

The true relationship between Jack and Algernon is not revealed until the end of the last scene. The audience realizes that the two are brothers in the last scene. Nevertheless, we see a brotherly relationship between them right from the beginning of the play as he waits for the coming of Aunt Augusta. Jack admits that he is living a dual life and Algernon similarly admits the same. They are thus alike not only in character but also in fault in their morals. Similarity in their behavior is further highlighted in their conduct towards each other. They squabble over the sandwiches that Algernon had prearranged for his aunt. Algernon ended up eating the sandwiches denied Jack (Caggiano, 2011). The argument continues when Algernon mentions his cousin Gwendolyn that jack was intending to marry. Algernon does not approve of Jacks plans because he believes that jack is also interested in another girl.

He had found the name of another girl Cecily in a cigarette case that jack had left in his smoking room. This is what causes Jack to admit to his identity. Algernon on the other hand reveals his friend Bunbury (Miller, 2010). Jack has thus invented a younger brother who lives in London and he has to bail him out frequently. All this time he has visited his real younger brother without realizing. Algernon’s behavior towards jack as a younger brother is also illustrated in his mooching off on him. He utilizes his knowledge of jacks’ interest in Gwendolyn as a means of getting meals at no cost. Siblings normally utilize their knowledge of others secrets to achieve their own wants (Roland, 2008). Algernon distracts Lady Bracknell by taking her to an adjacent room to provide jack with privacy in order for him to propose to Gwendolyn.       

Criticism

Critics argue that Wilde wrote in order to subvert certain ideas that existed in society. The play is a subversion of scientific ideas about how the universe operates. Newton stated that the law of cause and effect governs the universe. The Newtonian cosmos is awesome and beautiful, but it denies us the sense of wonder of the small events that occurs in our everyday life. Wilde is not in agreement with rigid worldviews.

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