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"The Importance of Being Earnest": Relevance in Moder Society

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Published: Sep 5, 2023

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Identity and authenticity: a universal quest, social class and morality: lessons from the upper class, promoting empathy and understanding, potential for social change: beyond the footlights, conclusion: a timeless mirror to society.

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The Importance of Being Earnest: Brief Overview and Thorough Analysis

the importance of being earnest social class essay

If you're intrigued by the wit and whimsy of 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' then settle in for a delightful journey through this literary gem. In an era when seriousness reigned supreme in literature, Oscar Wilde's eccentric comedy breathed fresh life into British society of the late 1800s.

At first glance, one might dismiss it as mere frivolity, but that would be a mistake. Behind every comedic flourish lies a profound layer of meaning waiting to be unearthed. Let this article be your guide to The Importance of Being Earnest analysis as we delve into the depths of Wilde's wit, offering a unique perspective and perhaps even a touch of inspiration for your own scholarly pursuits and custom research paper .

Shortly about Oscar Wilde

Born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland, Oscar Wilde was destined for literary greatness from the start. With a razor-sharp wit and a penchant for drama, he dazzled those around him from an early age.

After receiving an education at Trinity College, Dublin, Wilde set sail for England, where he quickly became a literary sensation. His plays, novels, and essays captured the essence of Victorian society with a sharpness and humor unparalleled in his time.

Wilde's magnum opus, 'The Importance of Being Earnest,' stands as a testament to his comedic genius and satirical prowess. With its biting wit and clever wordplay, the play remains a staple of English literature, captivating audiences with its timeless humor.

However, behind Wilde's public persona lay a life rife with scandal and controversy. His relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, known as 'Bosie,' sparked outrage and condemnation in Victorian society, ultimately leading to Wilde's downfall.

In 1895, Wilde faced a series of trials that culminated in his conviction for 'gross indecency' and subsequent imprisonment. Despite the adversity he faced, he maintained his irrepressible spirit, penning one of his most famous works, 'De Profundis,' during his time in prison.

The author's legacy endures not only in his literary works but also in his unapologetic embrace of individualism and defiance of societal norms. His famous aphorisms, such as 'I can resist anything except temptation' and 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,' continue to resonate with readers around the world, reminding us to live life with wit, style, and unyielding authenticity.

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Before we dive into the The Importance of Being Earnest analysis, let's take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the play and briefly review the main characters.

Jack Worthing

A gentleman of wealth and property, Jack leads a double life. In the city, he goes by the name Ernest, while in the countryside, he is Jack. He is responsible, well-meaning, and deeply in love with Gwendolen Fairfax. However, his tangled web of lies threatens to unravel as the play progresses.

Algernon Moncrieff

Jack's close friend and charming bachelor, Algernon, is known for his wit and love of pleasure. He adopts the identity of Ernest to pursue his romantic interests, leading to humorous misunderstandings and complications. Algernon's carefree demeanor contrasts sharply with Jack's more serious nature.

Cecily Cardew

Jack's ward and a charming young woman, Cecily, is sheltered yet spirited, with a penchant for romantic fantasies. She falls deeply in love with the idea of Ernest before even meeting him, setting the stage for a series of comedic misunderstandings with Algernon.

Gwendolen Fairfax

The sophisticated and determined love interest of Jack, Gwendolen, is enamored with the name Ernest and believes it to be a vital prerequisite for a husband. She is headstrong, witty, and unapologetically romantic, determined to marry a man by that name regardless of any obstacles.

Lady Bracknell

Gwendolen's formidable and snobbish mother, Lady Bracknell, is the epitome of Victorian societal expectations. She is determined to secure a suitable match for her daughter and is highly critical of anyone who does not meet her exacting standards, including Jack.

Cecily's governess, Miss Prism, is a well-intentioned but absent-minded character with a mysterious past. She becomes entangled in the romantic entanglements of the other characters, inadvertently revealing secrets that have long been buried.

Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.

The local rector, Canon Chasuble, is a somewhat oblivious clergyman who becomes embroiled in the romantic escapades of the other characters. He provides a source of comic relief with his peculiarities and misunderstandings.

First performed in 1895, the play revolves around mistaken identities, societal conventions, and the absurdities of romance in Victorian England.

The story begins with Algernon Moncrieff, a charming bachelor, and his friend Jack Worthing. Jack leads a double life, presenting himself as Ernest in the city and Jack in the country. Algernon, intrigued by Jack's mysterious past and his beautiful young ward, Cecily Cardew, decides to visit Jack's country estate.

Meanwhile, Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, Lady Bracknell's sophisticated and determined daughter. Gwendolen shares Jack's passion, particularly for the name 'Ernest, believing it to be the epitome of masculine charm.

As the plot unfolds, mistaken identities abound. Algernon masquerades as Jack's fictitious brother, Ernest, to court Cecily, who quickly falls in love with the idea of being engaged to someone named Ernest.

The arrival of Gwendolen at Jack's country estate further complicates matters when she discovers that Jack's real name is not Ernest, as she had believed. Nevertheless, both Gwendolen and Cecily remain determined to marry a man named Ernest.

Amidst the chaos, Lady Bracknell arrives, determined to ensure that her daughter marries into a suitable family. However, she is appalled by Jack's mysterious parentage and refuses to consent to his marriage to Gwendolen.

In the end, secrets are revealed, misunderstandings are resolved, and true love triumphs. Jack learns of his true parentage and his real name, Ernest. Lady Bracknell relents, giving her blessing to the marriages of both Jack and Algernon to Gwendolen and Cecily, respectively. The play concludes with a humorous twist as Jack reflects on the absurdity of his own story and the importance of being earnest in matters of both love and social etiquette.

The Importance of Being Earnest Essay Sample

Here's a glimpse into The Importance of Being Earnest essay sample exploring the role of honesty. If you'd like a custom one, don't forget you can always pay someone to do my essay and receive an expertly crafted paper from us.

The Importance of Being Earnest Analysis

The playwright masterfully dissects the hypocrisies and absurdities of the Victorian upper class through a lens of satire and humor. Let's delve deeper into the analysis of The Importance of Being Earnest and examine the key elements of this timeless play:

The Importance of Being Earnest Analysis

  • Dual Identities and Deception: Wilde explores the theme of dual identities and deception through the characters of Jack and Algernon, who adopt false personas ('Ernest') to navigate social expectations. This theme highlights the disconnect between appearance and reality, exposing the superficiality of societal norms.
  • Social Class and Marriage: The play satirizes the rigid social hierarchies and expectations surrounding marriage in Victorian society. Characters like Lady Bracknell embody the aristocratic disdain for those deemed beneath their station, while the pursuit of marriage becomes a farcical endeavor driven by wealth and status rather than genuine affection.
  • Morality and Hypocrisy: Wilde exposes the hypocrisy and moral decay lurking beneath the veneer of respectability. The characters engage in deceitful behaviors and moral relativism, challenging conventional notions of virtue and propriety.

2. Characters:

  • Jack Worthing (Ernest): Jack serves as a representative of the upper-middle class grappling with societal expectations and personal desires. His adoption of the persona 'Ernest' reflects his desire to escape the constraints of his social identity while also highlighting the absurdity of societal conventions.
  • Algernon Moncrieff: Algernon embodies the dandyish charm and hedonistic tendencies prevalent among the aristocracy. His pursuit of pleasure and romantic conquests masks a deeper sense of ennui and disillusionment with societal norms.
  • Gwendolen Fairfax: Gwendolen represents the prototypical Victorian woman constrained by societal expectations of femininity and marriage. Her obsession with the name 'Ernest' symbolizes her desire for romantic fulfillment and escape from her stifling existence.
  • Cecily Cardew: Cecily embodies youthful innocence and romantic idealism, eagerly awaiting her own romantic hero in the form of 'Ernest.' Her sheltered upbringing and penchant for melodrama serve as a foil to the cynicism of the adult characters.
  • Lady Bracknell: Lady Bracknell personifies the aristocratic disdain for social mobility and the pursuit of personal happiness. Her interrogation of potential suitors highlights the absurdity of marriage as a transactional arrangement driven by wealth and lineage.

3. Satirical Techniques:

  • Epigrams and Paradoxes: Wilde's use of epigrams and paradoxes infuses the dialogue with wit and irony, challenging conventional wisdom and exposing the contradictions inherent in Victorian society.
  • Exaggeration and Farce: The play employs exaggeration and farce to heighten the absurdity of its characters and situations, eliciting laughter while also provoking reflection on deeper societal issues.

4. Resolution:

  • Revelations and Irony: The resolution of the play sees the unraveling of deception and the revelation of the characters' true identities. However, the irony lies in the fact that despite the chaos and absurdity, the characters ultimately conform to societal expectations, underscoring the entrenched nature of Victorian values.

As we continue Importance of Being Earnest analysis, let's examine some of the central themes explored in the play that offer insight into the Victorian upper class while challenging traditional norms.

Earnestness

At the heart of the play lies the theme of earnestness, or the lack thereof, among the characters. Wilde examines the contrast between those who take life seriously and those who adopt a more carefree attitude. Characters like Jack and Algernon grapple with their responsibilities, while others, such as Algernon's butler, Lane, exhibit a nonchalant approach to life's obligations.

Responsibility

Wilde explores the notion of responsibility through the actions of his characters. While some, like Jack, exhibit a strong sense of duty towards their societal obligations, others, like Algernon, shirk their responsibilities in favor of pleasure-seeking. This theme highlights the tension between individual desires and societal expectations.

Religion serves as a backdrop against which Wilde critiques the superficiality and hypocrisy of the upper class. The characters' shallow attitude towards religious rituals reflects a broader skepticism towards traditional institutions and moral values. Wilde suggests that religion is often used as a facade to maintain appearances rather than a genuine expression of faith.

Marriage emerges as a central theme in the play, with Wilde satirizing the institution and the societal expectations surrounding it. Despite the characters' aversion to the idea of matrimony, they find themselves entangled in a web of engagements and proposals. Wilde highlights the tension between societal pressure to marry and the desire for personal freedom, particularly among the male protagonists.

Freedom and Individuality

Wilde subtly critiques the constraints placed on individuals by Victorian upper classes, particularly in terms of gender roles and social expectations. Characters like Cecily and Gwendolen assert their independence and agency in pursuing their romantic interests, challenging traditional notions of femininity and passivity.

Social Class

Social class plays a significant role in the play, with characters like Lady Bracknell embodying the aristocratic disdain for those deemed beneath their station. Wilde exposes the absurdity of class distinctions and the superficiality of societal hierarchies, suggesting that one's worth should not be determined by birth or wealth.

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The Importance of Being Earnest Symbols

What are some symbols in The Importance of Being Earnest? They appear throughout the play, bringing additional meaning to the scenes. Let's examine the major figures:

The Importance of Being Earnest Symbols

Ernest and Bunbury

Undeniably, both 'brother Ernest' and 'friend Bunbury' are fundamental to the play. 'Ernest' is the fictional alter ego created by Jack and Algernon to escape the constraints of their everyday lives. He represents the desire to break free from societal expectations and indulge in frivolity. Similarly, 'Bunbury' symbolizes the fabricated excuses and deceitful practices employed by the characters to evade responsibility and pursue their desires.

Big city and countryside

The contrast between the bustling city life of London and the tranquil countryside serves as a symbolic reflection of societal attitudes and class distinctions. The characters' discussions about their preferences for city living versus country living highlight their aspirations for social status and cultural refinement. The city represents sophistication and wealth, while the countryside is associated with simplicity and lower social standing. Wilde uses this symbolism to critique the superficiality of societal judgments based on geography and class, challenging the notion that one's worth is determined by one's surroundings.

Food and Dining

Scenes set around the dining table are often accompanied by witty banter and social commentary, highlighting the performative nature of Victorian etiquette. Food becomes a symbol of status and refinement, with characters using elaborate dinner parties and tea ceremonies to assert their social superiority. However, beneath the veneer of civility lies a world of deception and hypocrisy, as characters engage in verbal sparring and manipulation over tea and cucumber sandwiches.

The Importance of Being Earnest Movie

While you can relish Oscar Wilde's play on stage, you can also savor 'The Importance of Being Earnest' movie from the comfort of your home. Unlike the works of George Bernard Shaw, Charles Dickens, or Jane Austen, Wilde's comedic genius creates an atmosphere that is both cozy and humorous, a vibe that shines through in the 2002 film adaptation.

The movie boasts high-quality set decorations and costumes that transport viewers to the England of Queen Victoria. The attention to detail helps recreate the opulence and elegance of the Victorian era, providing a visually stunning backdrop for the witty banter and comedic antics of the characters.

In terms of success, the film achieved impressive financial returns, raking in over seventeen million dollars in revenue worldwide. This widespread success speaks to the enduring appeal of Wilde's timeless humor and the universal themes explored in the play.

Are you working on a war essay assignment, or perhaps you're curious about who is Daisy in The Great Gatsby ? Our blog offers a variety of intriguing articles that may pique your interest.

The Importance of Being Earnest Quotes

Oscar Wilde is renowned for his unforgettable quotes, and 'The Importance of Being Earnest' is brimming with brilliant lines that capture the essence of its characters.

Take, for example, Lady Bracknell's infamous line, 'To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune… to lose both seems like carelessness.' This quip not only showcases Wilde's razor-sharp humor but also characterizes Lady Bracknell as a woman lacking in empathy and understanding.

Similarly, Cecily Cardew's remark, 'I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train,' speaks volumes about her shallow and melodramatic nature. It's a witty observation that perfectly encapsulates Cecily's penchant for romantic fantasy and self-absorption.

Throughout the play, Wilde's dialogue is peppered with clever and incisive lines, each tailored to the character uttering them. Whether it's Algernon's irreverent wit or Jack's earnest sincerity, every character's voice rings true, adding depth and humor to the narrative.

As we conclude The Importance of Being Earnest analysis, the phenomenal comedy by Oscar Wilde shook the conservative empire that got used to Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, and Jane Austen. Comedic elements, exaggerations, and different literary devices entertain the audience while reminding them of an important trait like honesty. This author was truly ahead of his time, as the play still wins people's hearts today.

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What Literary Devices Does Oscar Wilde Use in The Importance of Being Earnest?

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the importance of being earnest social class essay

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Essay Topics for Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (for English 1112, Lakehead University (Canada)

Philip v. allingham , contributing editor, victorian web.

[ Victorian Web Home —> Authors —> Aesthetes and Decadents —> Oscar Wilde —> Works —> Leading Questions ]

Instructions : Employ one of the critical quotations as the basis for your term paper of 1,500 to 3,000 words.

1. Robert Boyle describes Wilde's last play as a humorous "treatment of decay and death," and of "human suffering," in which Wilde finally abandons the effort to balance "conventional moral norms with the realities of human behavior" (325). Responding to these remarks, develop an essay topic about an underlying, serious theme in The Importance Of Being Earnest . Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

2. According to Karl Beckson , "Central to Wilde's life and art was the idea of the dandy as the embodiment of the heroic ideal as well as of the aesthetic temperament hostile to bourgeois sentiment and morality" (205). Which of the characters in the play embodies this aesthetic principle, and how? From your consideration of these characters' utterances and actions develop an appropriate essay topic. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

3. William Keach contends that Lady Bracknell's "cross-examination of Jack lays the groundwork for much of the rest of the plot" (184), and that the underlying tension of the play depends upon "the contrast of city and country so important to the double lives being led" (183). Explain these two points, then develop one of them into a suitable essay topic. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

4. Otto Reinert claims that "Wilde's basic formula for satire is [his characters'] assumption of a code of behavior that represents the reality that Victorian convention pretends to ignore" (15). Reinert argues that in this play Wilde is principally concerned with the difference between conventional and actual manners and morality. Discuss these points, then refine this "formula for satire" into an essay topic. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

5. Richard Foster believes that the terms "farce" and "comedy of manners" are unsuitable for this Wilde play because it is far more subtle, complicated, and artistic than such labels imply.

Farce . . .depends for its effects upon extremely simplified characters tangling themselves up in incongruous situations, and upon a knowing audience gleefully anticipating their falling victim, in their ignorance, to some enormous but harmless confusion of fact or identity." Furthermore, "A comedy of manners is fundamentally realistic: it requires the audience to accept the world presented on the stage as a real world, a possible world." [19]

Foster contends that the play is in fact an elaborate lampoon.

Apply the terms "farce," "comedy of manners," and "lampoon" to The Importance of Being Earnest , then develop an essay topic that utilizes these terms. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

6. Pointing out that inverted relationships are the norm in this play, Robert J. Jordan , rejects the proposition that The Importance of Being Earnest is a satire or a social criticism; rather, "at the most important level it seems to be a fantasy in which unattainable human ideals are allowed to realize themselves." Elegance, symmetry, taste, indifference to conventional morality, and a total lack of sexual corruption (for which Wilde substitutes "food-lust") are achieved in this make-believe world.

Apply the term "fantasy" to Wilde's play, demonstrating how it achieves some of Foster's ideal elements listed above, then develop a suitable essay topic. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

7. Wilde suggests that his Victorian contemporaries should treat trivial matters with greater respect and pay less attention to what society then regarded as serious. Discuss how Wilde expresses this philosophy and comment on the effectiveness with which he has communicated his 'message' with reference to ONE of the following in the play: death, politics, money, property, food, or marriage. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

8. Using three examples drawn from the play, show how Algernon uses Wilde's aesthetic principles to transform his life into a work of art. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

9. How does Wilde portray food as both a weapon and a means of demonstrating one's power? Discuss three examples from the play to demonstrate how Wilde uses food. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

10. Describe how this play mayor may not fit the criteria associated with the genre of the lampoon. Define the term "lampoon" and apply this definition to the play: what is Wilde lampooning? What is his intention in lampooning it? What are his techniques, and do these produce appropriate attitudes in the audience? Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

11. Define the term "fantasy," then demonstrate how Wilde treats ONE of the following fantastically (as opposed to realistically): Victorian society's class structure, food and the Victorian conventions surrounding it, the resolution of the plot. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

12. Using appropriate quotations and paraphrases from at least one major scene in the play, show how Wilde treats humorously serious issues and conflicts that existed within Victorian society. You might wish to demonstrate how the play deals with one of the following matters: marriage and courtship, sexual double standards, the class structure, money and property, and attitudes towards illness and death. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

13. In French, the title of the play is Ernest ou l'Importance d'être Constant . Explain how this title sheds additional light on the key issues of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and being "earnest" versus being "constant." Consider the implications of the French title for all the major characters. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic.

Beckson , Karl. "Oscar Wilde." Modern British Dramatists, 1900-1945. Part 2: M-Z. Dictionary of Literary Biography . Vol. 10. Pp. 204-218.

Boyle , Robert. "Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)." British Novelists, 1890-1929: Traditionalists. Dictionary of Literary Biography . Vol. 34. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Pp. 315-331.

Foster , Richard. "Wilde as Parodist: A Second Look at The Importance Of Being Earnest ." College English 18, 1 (Oct., 1956): 18-23.

Jordan , Robert J. "Satire and Fantasy in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest ." Ariel 1, 3 (July 1970).

Keach , William. Teacher's Manual: Adventures in English Literature . New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980. Pp. 183-7.

Reinert , Otto. "Satiric Strategy in The Importance Of Being Earnest ." College English 18, 1 (Oct., 1956): 14- 18.

Related Materials

  • Writing and Discussion Questions
  • Introduction to the play

a. Parenthetical citation rather than foot- or end-notes will be considered acceptable; for a play longer than a single act, please provide act number in roman numerals followed by page number in arabic numerals.

b. Double space all text; if you are doing your essay by hand, you may single space quotations of forty words or longer, but integrate shorter quotations; for example:

Lady Bracknell is unrealistically, almost contemptuously honest when she reveals her ignorance of the German language. Objecting to French songs on the grounds of possible impropriety of subject-matter, she remarks, "But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so" (I: 128, emphasis added).

A Note on Essay Topics

Topics may call for comparison between two like things, such as the humour in a modern television sit-com (situational comedy) and The Importance Of Being Earnest .

Contrast , on the other hand, implies that the writer is out to demonstrate differences between things usually thought to be similar. For example, one might contrast the duplicity of Jack and Algernon here with that of Dr. Jekyll in Stevenson's novella.

Other possibilities are explanation and analysis, for example: "Why We Laugh WITH and Not AT Lady Bracknell."

Last modified 13 March 2006

the importance of being earnest social class essay

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar wilde, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon

Through Jack’s search for his origins and family name, Wilde satirizes the Victorian Era’s intense scrutiny of cash, class, and character. Wilde subversively prods this question through the name of “ Ernest ,” a Christian name, or given name, as opposed to a family name. The name of “Ernest” comes to symbolize different things for different people. For Gwendolen and Cecily it “inspires absolute confidence” but also symbolizes the ideal husband/ lover. For Jack, “Ernest” is an alter ego, an identity through which he can court Gwendolen and cavort in the pleasures of city life. The name holds similar meaning to Algernon , who masquerades as “Ernest” to escape to the country to meet Cecily under false pretenses.

While the name of “Ernest” holds different values for each character, Wilde shows that a name, in of itself, is quite meaningless in comparison to the person who holds that name. Contrary to the play’s title, in this dramatic world, being “earnest” is not nearly as important as being named “Ernest.” Gwendolen does not accept Jack’s proposal because he is earnestly in love with her, but she believes him to be named “Ernest,” a name she find melodious, aesthetically pleasing, and irresistibly fascinating. Cecily in a similar manner commits to Algernon not because he is earnest, but because she believes him to be “Ernest,” a man whom she has fantasized about in her diary and “girlish dream[s].” Because Gwendolen and Cecily are so enamored of the name “Ernest,” they confuse the shared name of their lovers with their respective identities. Both women believe that they are engaged to a name rather than a person. Upon finding out that neither Jack, nor Algernon is named “Ernest,” Gwendolen exclaims to Cecily, “neither of us is engaged to be married to anyone.” Through this conflation Wilde shows the ridiculousness of marrying someone purely for his/her name alone. But in Wilde’s world, it was an all too common practice for men and women to capitalize upon an advantageous family name through marriage. Wilde’s play on the name of “Ernest” with the quality of being “earnest,” turns this Victorian obsession with names and their social meaning on its head.

Ultimately Jack gets the girl because he has the cash, acquires class and gains character by taking on the name of “Ernest,” which validates his family ties and social standing. Yet Jack’s new name—“Ernest John Moncrieff”—only has meaning because society assigns value to it; his name is verified in the Army List , a listing of the names of English generals. Wilde is quick to point out that this list is merely a piece of paper, whose authority is shoddy in comparison to Jack’s earnestness to find his true identity. While Jack feverishly combs over volumes to uncover his lineage, Wilde refers to “wrong pages,” antiquated books,” and lists of “ghastly names,” suggesting the piece of paper that Jack’s new name is printed on is not much better than the woman who confuses a man named “Ernest” for a man in “earnest.” Wilde’s subtle jab at the ridiculousness of claiming one’s name from a stack of books points to the relative meaningless of names in comparison to one’s actions and the contents of one’s character, thereby undermining the Victorians’ marriage of class and character.

Name and Identity ThemeTracker

The Importance of Being Earnest PDF

Name and Identity Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

I have introduced you to everyone as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn't Ernest.

the importance of being earnest social class essay

Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you…my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.

Men and Women in Love Theme Icon

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune…to lose both seems like carelessness.

Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon

You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl brought up with the utmost care—to marry into a cloak-room and form an alliance with a parcel.

Your Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. That is all!

Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon

Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.

The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon

I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.

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A Feminist Marxist and Psychoanalytic Analysis of The Importance of Being Earnest

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2023, Unveiling Layers of Wilde's Masterpiece: A Feminist, Marxist, and Psychoanalytic Analysis of "The Importance of Being Earnest”

Oscar Wilde's enduring comedic masterpiece, "The Importance of Being Earnest," initially perceived as a lighthearted farce, conceals profound layers of meaning and social commentary. This essay employs three prominent literary theories-Feminism, Marxism, and Psychoanalysis-to unravel the complexities within Wilde's work. From a Feminist perspective, the play critiques Victorian gender norms, revealing how women like Gwendolen and Cecily navigate societal constraints while exhibiting moments of agency. The Marxist lens exposes the superficiality of upper-class values, illustrating the characters' obsession with titles and lineage, and highlighting class-based exploitation. Psychoanalytic scrutiny unveils repressed desires and motivations, particularly seen in Algernon's adoption of the "Ernest" persona and the women's fixation on the name, reflecting a yearning for unconventional love. Despite societal limitations, Wilde's characters challenge norms, presenting opportunities for feminist analysis. The Marxist critique lays bare the materialistic nature of Victorian upperclass marriage, while the psychoanalytic lens delves into characters' hidden desires, providing a comprehensive understanding of societal dynamics. In conclusion, "The Importance of Being Earnest" transcends its era as a timeless masterpiece. This essay demonstrates how literature serves as a rich source for commentary on gender, class, and human psychology, inviting readers to reflect on the profound truths embedded in seemingly trivial comedies.

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Maroof Ahmed

the importance of being earnest social class essay

This paper attempts to present how reality and fiction intersect in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest to challenge, if not subvert, social obligations and perception of identity in Victorian society. In so doing, the paper critically attempts to touch upon the concepts of duality and appearance as they possess the utmost importance for the Victorian sense of morality. The article also strives to show how Wilde undermines the basis of the truthful representation of gender identity instead of the Victorian perception of the term. In the play, as the paper argues, Wilde hints at the idea that there is a difference if we can call it a duality of identity between the appearance and what is hidden beneath. In the case of the fictional characters, they wear fake identities or imagine a view of identity to suit the public's expectations, challenging the perception of stable autonomous identity that the Victorian believed. However, the inner and outer worlds of the characters are pretty different from inside and outside, so that they constantly +vacillate in-between these identities. The paper concludes that, as Wilde hints, it is impossible to define a person fully when they display various identities simultaneously as in the modern sense.

This essay discusses how Wilde addresses the very nature of being. In repressive Victorian society, he chronicles the emergence of a self that is hidden and double and thus must exist at the margin, if not in the shadows. The result in Wilde’s private life is an identity in flux that reveals him as an identity migrant, who at one moment is the Victorian father and husband, and at another, the homosexual lover of Lord Alfred Douglas.

Modern Drama

Sarah Balkin

Oscar Wilde’s “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” (1889) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) both centrally feature imaginary persons. In “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.,” Wilde’s narrator says that “all Art” is “to a certain degree a mode of acting, an attempt to realise one’s own personality.” The Importance of Being Earnest assigns actors’ bodies to the imaginary person of the title. My essay examines what it meant to realize a personality on the late-nineteenth-century stage in light of recent scholarship on character, stage properties, and materiality. I argue that – because theatre shows the constructedness of material and corporeal being, because farce renders male identity a matter of genre, and because Wilde unifies the characters’ desires under one name – The Importance of Being Earnest uniquely locates personality in a living human body.

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The Social Class in The Importance Of Being Earnest

Updated 25 October 2023

Subject Identity

Downloads 60

Category Social Issues ,  Sociology

Topic Social Class

The Importance of Being Earnest and the Issue of Social Class

The Importance of Being Earnest is a play authored by Oscar Wilde. The most dominant theme in the play is the issue of social class. Apparently, three categories of classes are portrayed in the play, though only two of them direct the main focus of the drama. That is, the upper class and the lower class. Wilde depicts the two classes through behavior and setting of the respective characters. Based on the scenes in the play, it is ostensible that social class does not only affect the characters but also the setting in the play. For instance, Algernon's sentiment manifests the disparity in the two classes by stating, "Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility" (Wilde and Gladden 35).

The Contrasting Behaviors of Upper and Lower Classes

The author points out how different people of lower class behave as compared to those of upper class. In this play, members of the upper class are the paragons of pretense and pride. Grounded in Wilde's view, these individuals feel that they are inherently entitled to higher social position and wealth. Besides, these group are synonymous to maintenance of status quo to an extent that they can hastily squash any sign of rebellion. The author seems to satirize the hypocrisy and arrogance of the aristocracy. In connection to this, he portrays the lower class as more humble and pretentious as opposed to their counterparts in the upper class. Even so, they are equally good at cracking jokes.

The Victorian Class System and Marriage

Besides, the Victorian class system, where marriage is only meant for members of the same class, perpetuates the gulf between the lower and the upper classes. Moreover, the aristocratic attitudes preserve the distance between these two groups. In the play, Jack views himself as a Liberal Unionist who has no politics since his home lies on the "unfashionable side" of London (Wilde and Gladden 530). Lady Bracknell reiterates that Jack comes from the "unfashionable" side of the Belgrave Square. Lady Bracknell goes further to approve of the ignorance of the lower class. She confirms this disparity by stating, "The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever" (Wilde and Gladden 500)

The Aristocrats' Attitudes and Reform

In The Importance of Being Earnest, one might hope that the aristocrats would be cognizant of their erratic ways and be more virtuous in terms of their morality. Even so, they believe they have the most virtuous attitudes and that the 'other' classes should follow their footsteps. In fact, they believe that the other category should see their own errors. For instance, when Miss Prism apparently chides the lower classes for bringing up so many children to christen, she perceives it as a thrift concern. In her statement in Act 11, she claims that, "I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject [of christenings]. But they don't seem to know what thrift is" (Wilde and Gladden 255). According to the Victorians, reform is maintaining the current socio-economic system by perpetuating the virtues and economy of the upper class.

Wilde, Oscar, and Samuel L. Gladden. The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2010. Internet resource.

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the importance of being earnest social class essay

The Importance of Being Earnest: a preview

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”. University College is performing The Importance of Being Earnest this week, inviting you to indulge in deceptive identities, comical tossups, love and passion set against the setting sun.

Premiering in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest has delighted audiences with its layered wit, elaborate plot twists, and comedic genius (the title itself is a pun!) for decades before making its way to the Oxford stage. The OxStu was able to catch a glimpse into the Univ Players’ dress rehearsal the afternoon before the opening night, as well as interview cast and crew about their hopes and visions for the upcoming play. 

Adapting a classic 

Director Maximillian (Max) Ren described the play as a “combination between a comedy of manners and high farce”, with all the classic elements of identity theft, mismatched marriage, and more woven into a sophisticated and elegant comedy. Its popularity speaks for itself: the play is shrewd, flamboyant, intriguing, incisive, and immensely quotable.

The play follows two friends, Jack and Algernon, who both pretend to be named Ernest, and the confusion that ensues when two separate women, Cecily and Gwendolen, both fall in love with this elusive “Ernest”. 

Max further remarked that “It’s just such a classic” – indeed, Oscar Wilde’s farcical comedy has been performed multiple times since its first release and even adapted into a feature-length film. As a mainstay of the literary canon, there are big shoes to fill here. This doesn’t seem to faze Max, however, who simply hopes to “stay true to Wilde” in putting up a classic rendition of the famous play. “I think it’s really important to not overdo the acting, and just let the play speak for itself”, he adds when asked about his vision for the show. 

Nevertheless, there were still a few changes made to the play – namely the element of cross-dressing (which goes both ways!) and the staging of the play entirely in the University College Masters Garden. 

Lady Bracknell, despite the feminine-sounding name, is played by Max himself, while Miss Prism is similarly played by actor Fraser Weissem. Conversely, actress Kelly Yu plays not one, but two of the male butlers, Merriman and Lane. While not entirely unusual in its approach (since past stagings of the play have also featured cross-dressing), this does add to the humour of the play and fits nicely with the overarching theme of mismatched identities. 

An outdoors staging in the Masters Garden 

The staging of the play in the garden would allow for more creative licence with the use of space, said Max, as opposed to simply performing the play on a traditional rectangular stage. The setting is also much bigger, with a lot more depth and layering to play with. 

Granted, only the second act of the play is set in the garden, as acts one and three are set indoors. When faced with this issue, Max mentioned the use of props, lighting and mannerisms to “create the indoors versus outdoors feel”. 

I was particularly intrigued by his usage of mannerisms to signal location – as Max explains, the Victorians employed a rather rigid set of manners. A lady acted differently indoors and outdoors, being required to take off her hat if she’s indoors for over 15 minutes. Subtle shifts in mannerisms, therefore, become important in how the actors “play with the locality” according to Max, and propels the play into a more immersive dimension as strict Victorian norms are observed as far as possible. 

A late Victorian setting

Late Victorian England, apart from being strict in its mannerisms, was also fairly rigid in its class divisions. It is not surprising, then, that the play itself provides commentary about class and high society. Reflecting on the symbolism of her characters, the butlers Merriman and Lane, Kelly pointed to her role as a lower class presence in a play that is full of rich and glamorous people, inviting the audience to laugh along with her at the ridiculous and absurd antics employed by those of high society. 

I also wondered how the actors adapted to the mannerisms of Victorian England, and how this affected their performances. Sophia Hoad, who plays Gwendolen, told me that people in the Victorian era tended to speak slower, so she similarly tried to deliver her lines with more nuance and theatricality, taking care not to rush their delivery. “I also watched a lot of interviews from Titanic survivors and girls who were teenagers during the Victorian era to see how they spoke”, she added. 

Final thoughts 

From my brief glimpse into the afternoon’s rehearsal, the chemistry and banter between cast members were off the charts, and energy was high throughout – I am expecting an entertaining show, one Oscar Wilde himself would be proud of. 

At its heart, The Importance of Being Earnest is a play about humans, and one we can relate to almost 130 years after its release. Sophia remarks fondly that Gwendolen, beneath her tough and intellectual front, is actually “just a naive girl who wants to be loved and cherished. In that way, I think she represents many women”, she adds, before conceding that “not many of them get (love)”. 

When asked what he hopes audiences will take away from the play, Fraser, who plays Miss Prism, said “One thing you have to take from this is enjoyment. It’s nice just being outside, and seeing your fellow students produce something beautiful”. Sophia agreed, adding “The play teaches us to not take ourselves too seriously, and I think people need that”. In the midst of the exam crunch, it can also be nice to unwind and appreciate the play, surrounded by the beautiful Masters Garden.  

Whether you’re here to pay homage to Wilde (who himself was an alumnus of Oxford), or simply looking for some fun and laughter amidst the stress of exams, this performance of The Importance of Being Earnest in the beautiful University College Masters Garden is certainly one to watch.

Tickets and timings 

The Importance of Being Earnest runs from the 15th to the 17th of May, starting at 7:30pm for all three nights. General admission tickets cost £7, while concession tickets cost £5, and can be purchased here . In the event of wet weather, the college chapel will be used as an alternative venue. 

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the importance of being earnest social class essay

Deception and Irony in “The Importance of being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

How it works

To be earnest usually means to be sincere and honest. As it is mentioned in the title, the first impression that the reader gets is that the main figures are implementing these ideas. But why then are they exactly the opposite and act in such mischievous and misbehaviour ways? And here comes the irony which follows along through the whole piece. The figures create false deceitful images which lead to “”comedy of manners””. Are they used for good or bad? It is hard to tell what the outcomes are.

This deception, as a key element in the play, results in accepting everything as humourous acts through the eyes of the irony. The audience knows more about what is going on than the characters on stage. But did they create these false images because of the suppressing world in which they lived or was it for another reason? We will find out in this research.

To begin with, we should understand the definition of the word “earnest” itself, so that it would be easier for the reader to make proper final decisions of the characters’ actions. If one is considered to be earnest, he or she is a very sincere and serious person who takes his or her actions to heart. As not only their actions, but also their beliefs are very important to them and they try to be honest, at least to themselves first. Being honest is a key factor to this notion of earnestness. If one is just pretending and creates a false image of himself/herself or is just not being honest at all, he/she would not be seen in their full potential. What is more, the audience would be very disappointed when they eventually find out that he/she is acting as someone else and that they have been lying this whole time. Finding that people have been lying to you is not a good thing and you will change the way you look at them in a negative way. One could not rely on his/her lies forever. At some point the truth will come to light. Is it this situation with our characters in Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest”? We are about to find out.

Our main characters are not that sincere as it is mentioned in title, as I already mentioned. Jack Worthing calls himself “Earnest” so that he is perceived to be honest by the audience, especially the one in London, although he is not quite sincere himself. Here is some unpacking of his character and why he chose this way of behavior. It is all related to his brother to whom he came up who is full of mischief and misbehavior, not appropriate to that time of living. Jack decided that he wants to escape from the established style of existence in London and misbehave on account to his beloved brother. And in order not to be caught, he introduces himself as “Earnest” which creates the false image. This kind of shows Jack’s morale and that he actually cares for his brother and tries to get him out of his troubles. “This is ironic, and the life of Earnest was disapproved in Victorian Society, at that time, while what Jack appeared as was normal and looked upon greatly. Jack strived for a “very high moral tone.”. (Opaleski-DiMeo, 2013)

Another character also escapes from the reality and created dishonest image of himself, but for another reason. Algernon’s falsehoods are less serious than Jack’s. He never hurts anyone with his fiction of Bunbury, which he creates to help him cope and escape from his tiresome social responsibilities and duties in the real life, such as having dinner with Lady Bracknell. “His imaginary creation is kept at arm’s length; he does not actually pretend to be Bunbury. Because Algernon pretends that he goes to the country to look after the invalid Bunbury, he gains the additional benefit of borrowing the appearance of dutiful and charitable behavior.” At some though, he is challenged to declare his motive and true identity. (Novelguide)

Jack, on the other hand, actually pretends to be someone he is not. As I observed, Earnest is completely different from Ernest, the character that he plays. He deceives even those closest to him, even his beloved woman, Gwendolen, whom he wants to marry. Through the whole time she believes that she will marry someone called Ernest. Despite the fact that loving someone means to be honest with your half, Jack does not allow her to get to know his real character. Meaning that his entire relationship with Gwendolen is “never placed on an honest footing”, unlike the relation between Algernon and Cecily. Overall, Jack lives a double and deceitful life in a period which does not tolerate immoral behavior as long as he preserves a virtuous appearance. His desires the audience to think of him as the perfect example of moral integrity, when, indeed, he lives in a lie. (Novelguide)

Here comes the most important question, why they act in such misbehavior ways, although the Victorian period in which they lived, did not allow them? I mentioned some factors which provoked them to act in such manners, but for which major reason did their intentions grow? It is because Wilde wrote his play under Victorian values and society, which was famous for its political stability, increased wealth and extremely strict cultural norms? In fact, this is probably the main reason for their actions. During that time males were valued in both economic basis and birth condition, which were the most significant standards of the traditional value system of the mainstream society itself. All of this puts huge pressure on the individuals and provokes them to change behaviors. In one-word, economic conditions and the social status determine males’ fate in Oscar Wilde’s play related to the Victorian Age. (???, 2014)

Also, here comes the pressure from being married that affects the characters in the play. Marriage itself plays a huge role in “The Importance of being Earnest” since both Jack and Algernon are trying to marry their beloved ones. Unfortunately, marriage back then was not only to be with the one that is meant for you. Marriage and Love did not go together. It was a time of arranged marriages from which one’s family did not only gain a fair amount of wealth, but also accreditation. Back then it was of huge importance to be part of the upper class, to be someone recognizable and honored. And if one is not born in the aristocracy, he or she may achieve his/her status through an arranged marriage. And people from the upper class are focused more on issues such as social standing, money and family background rather than issues like having a romantic relationship. The society at that time lived in an extremely materialistic view, which is really sad, in my opinion, because young people did not have the chance to marry the ones they love. This is another reason for the main figures’ “riot” to the already established norms. (Smith,2018)

To sum everything so far, one of the reasons of the figures’ stupid actions is the law at that time which plays a huge role in people’s lives. Which affects them in two ways: they either modify their external behavior or change their underlying preferences. We will examine which case we have in this play. (2. Lewinsohn-Zamir, 2015)

Overall, Wilde’s play is a farce of comic imitation of figures which leads to the carnival image of the piece. As it represents false images by hiding the characters’ truth identities under “the masks” such as in a typical carnival, where everyone is pretending to be someone else, where everything is masquerade. (???, 2013)

Wilde’s play is a perfectly written play, showing something more than just “good fun”. The work is studied as a satire which is usually meant to be humorous and shows the constructive social criticism over the examined characters in different situations. While reading this text the readers are mocking the characters since they are performing silly and crazy actions in order to stand out in the crowd. The play itself introduces humorous criticism over the irrational acting of the main bodies in the play by examining their life experiences and what paths do they take. (Reinert, 1956)

It is also considered as a pragmatic approach to real-life translating for the stage and screen, with a view to showing the potential of detailed linguistic analysis to show aspects of meaning-making and how the audience react to various personalities on stage. Having Wilde’s play, this research provides us with more detailed and accurate information of how the public reacts to the stage performers (to all the farce that is performed), what do they examine and what conclusions do they make after that. An evidence, explaining why the main audience of the play reacts in a humorous way without considering it to be serious and why they take it as an irony. (Sidiropoulou, 2012)

In order to help the audience to understand the whole point of the play and the deceitful characters, I have found a real-life example which juxtaposes Wilde’s play by examining the digital deceit nowadays. It looks why is it important to be Earnest in social media. It reverses the perspective that Wilde established in his play and creates a new problem-solving process based on Wilde’s views. (Micheaux,2018)

I will elaborate more on the other sources as well. The ones with the Chinese symbols are from the Harvard library and I do not know why they are shown like this, instead of the author’s name. But they should be academic. Also, please tell me if I need to change and find some other sources and themes.

Works Cited

  • Craft, Christopher. “Alias Bunbury: Desire and Termination in The Importance of Being Earnest.” Representations, no. 31, 1990, pp. 19–46. JSTOR.
  • Foster, Richard. “Wilde as Parodist: A Second Look at the Importance of Being Earnest.” College English, vol. 18, no. 1, 1956, pp. 18–23. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/372764.
  • Lewinsohn-Zamir, Daphna. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST: TWO NOTIONS OF INTERNALIZATION.” The University of Toronto Law Journal, vol. 65, no. 2, 2015, pp. 37–84. JSTOR.
  • Micheaux, Andrea L., et al. The Importance of Being Earnest in Social Media ; The Importance of Being Earnest in Social Media : Juxtaposing Oscar Wilde’s Script with an Empirical Case Study to Examine Digital Deceit from the Blogger’s Perspective. 2018.
  • Opaleski-DiMeo, Kristie-Anne. Importance of Being Earnest Discussion Questions. 2013,my.ccsd.net/userdocs/documents/ccnidI33DmUu0gKh.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3BHnZgeesACDj1KJdqpZTxmE5s1bscE3-V9Bw7FxIbYQFGa6C_i4Epndk.
  • Reinert, O. (1956). Satiric Strategy in the Importance of Being Earnest. College English, 18(1), p.14.
  • Sale, Roger. “Being Earnest.” The Hudson Review, vol. 56, no. 3, 2003, pp. 475–484. JSTOR.
  • Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Importance of Being Earnest Theme of Marriage.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/importance-of-being-earnest/marriage-theme.html.
  • Sidiropoulou, Maria. Translating Identities on Stage and Screen: Pragmatic Perspectives and Discoursal Tendencies. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. EBSCOhost.
  • Smith, Catherine. “Marriage in The Importance of Being Earnest: Theme & Quotes.” Study.com, Study.com, 2018, study.com/academy/lesson/marriage-in-the-importance-of-being-earnest-theme-quotes.html.
  • Team, Novelguide. “The Importance of Being Earnest: Essay Q&A.” Novelguide, Novelguide.com, www.novelguide.com/the-importance-of-being-earnest/essay-questions.
  • van der Westhuizen, Millie. “Victorian Values & Society in The Importance of Being Earnest.” Study.com, Study.com, 2018, study.com/academy/lesson/victorian-values-society-in-the-importance-of-being-earnest.html.
  • ??? “A Tentative Analysis on the Carnivalization in The Importance of Being Earnest.” ????(?), no. 2, 2013, pp. 203–204.
  • ??? “Traditional Values on Males in Victorian Age-A Case Study of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.” ???????, no. 7, 2014, pp. 179–180.

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COMMENTS

  1. Social Class In The Importance Of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde

    In the play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," a person's social class is highly admired. The main characters are high in society and are falsely appearing to live up to great expectations. In Oscar Wilde's play, the theme of the social class is extensively explored through the characters, although they are living double-lives.

  2. "The Importance of Being Earnest": Relevance in Moder Society

    Despite being set in a Victorian context, "The Importance of Being Earnest" offers a timeless critique of social class and morality that continues to resonate today. The characters' obsession with maintaining social appearances and securing advantageous relationships mirrors our society's enduring fascination with status and material success.

  3. "The Importance of Being Earnest" Study Guide: Oscar Wilde's

    Welcome to a delightful journey through Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, "The Importance of Being Earnest.". This play, first performed in 1895, is a brilliant satire of the Victorian era's social mores and attitudes, especially concerning marriage and the pursuit of love. Wilde, known for his sharp wit and flamboyant style, was one of the ...

  4. The Importance of Being Earnest: Study Guide

    The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, first performed in 1895, is a comedic play that satirizes the conventions and manners of Victorian society.The subtitle of the play, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, aptly captures Wilde's tongue-in-cheek take on the cultural milieu to which he was subject.Set in England during the late 19th century, the play follows the lives of two young ...

  5. Themes in The Importance of Being Earnest

    To the Victorians, reform means keeping the current social and economic system in place by perpetuating upper-class virtues and economy. Every page, every line of dialogue, every character, each symbol, and every stage direction in The Importance of Being Earnest is bent on supporting Wilde's contention that social change happens as a matter of ...

  6. Cash, Class, and Character Theme in The Importance of Being Earnest

    Cash, Class, and Character Theme Analysis. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Importance of Being Earnest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The Victorian society in which Wilde lived was concerned with wealth, family status, and moral character, especially when it came to marriage.

  7. The Importance of Being Earnest Study Guide

    During the initial run of The Importance of Being Earnest, Lord Alfred's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, accused Wilde of being a "somdomite" (sic). Under his lover's influence, Wilde countered by suing the Marquess for libel. Queensberry was acquitted, but enough evidence of Wilde's homosexuality surfaced during the first trial that Wilde was charged with "gross indecency."

  8. The Importance of Being Earnest

    Two major issues predominate much of The Importance of Being Earnest 's criticism. First, while audiences from the play's opening have warmly received it, Wilde's contemporaries questioned its ...

  9. The Importance of Being Earnest: Mini Essays

    The Importance of Being Earnest has a good deal to say about the nature of deceptive or superficial appearances, including the illusion of virtue that Jack projects and the signs of elegance, status, and propriety that Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell, and Miss Prism covet, as well as the phenomenon of hypocrisy, a word that derives from the ancient ...

  10. The Importance of Being Earnest Essays and Criticism

    To modern theatre audiences, the title of Oscar Wilde's most popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest, seems a clever play on words. After all, the plot hinges on the telling of little—and ...

  11. The Importance Of Being Earnest Social Class Analysis

    The Importance Of Being Earnest Social Class Analysis. Oscar Wilde implements a heavy focusses significant attention on class in The Importance of Being Earnest. People with and without money behave very differently, though strive for the same response and impressions from their peers. The characters in this novel are exaggerated to the point ...

  12. The Importance of Being Earnest: Deep Dive

    Here's a glimpse into The Importance of Being Earnest essay sample exploring the role of honesty. If you'd like a custom one, ... Social Class and Marriage: The play satirizes the rigid social hierarchies and expectations surrounding marriage in Victorian society. Characters like Lady Bracknell embody the aristocratic disdain for those deemed ...

  13. The Importance of Being Earnest Themes

    Themes and Colors. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Importance of Being Earnest, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction. As a leader of the Aesthetic movement, Wilde was especially interested in the relationship between life and art, pondering the eternal question ...

  14. Essay Questions

    Manuscripts are used by various characters — diaries, sermons, and a three-volume novel. What function does each have in the play? 5. What attitudes of the aristocracy can be seen in Lady Bracknell's dialogue? 6. How is conflict developed in the play? 7. How does Wilde turn around well-known proverbs or epigrams to comment on Victorian attitudes?

  15. Social Class in the Importance of Being Earnest

    Social Class Distinctions in Victorian Britain. The two main social classes in Britain are made extremely apparent in The Importance of Being Earnest the setting of the play through the important details of the settings described by Wilde. The beginning of the play, we are introduced to Algernon and Lane within Algernon's flat in London which ...

  16. Essay Topics for Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"

    Responding to these remarks, develop an essay topic about an underlying, serious theme in The Importance Of Being Earnest. Please confirm by e-mail the precise wording of your topic. 2. According to Karl Beckson, "Central to Wilde's life and art was the idea of the dandy as the embodiment of the heroic ideal as well as of the aesthetic ...

  17. Algernon Moncrieff Character Analysis in The Importance of Being

    Algernon Moncrieff. Algernon, the play's secondary hero, is closer to the figure of the dandy than any other character in the play. A charming, idle, decorative bachelor, Algernon is brilliant, witty, selfish, amoral, and given to making delightful paradoxical and epigrammatic pronouncements that either make no sense at all or touch on ...

  18. Name and Identity Theme in The Importance of Being Earnest

    Wilde's play on the name of "Ernest" with the quality of being "earnest," turns this Victorian obsession with names and their social meaning on its head. Ultimately Jack gets the girl because he has the cash, acquires class and gains character by taking on the name of "Ernest," which validates his family ties and social standing.

  19. A Feminist Marxist and Psychoanalytic Analysis of The Importance of

    The Marxist Perspective Analysing "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde from a Marxist perspective involves examining the play's portrayal of class relations, wealth, and social hierarchy. A key element which can be considered under the Marxist perspective is the class distinction prevalent in the play.

  20. The Importance of Being Earnest Free Essay Examples And Topic Ideas

    25 essay samples found. The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedic play by Oscar Wilde that satirizes the Victorian social norms and aristocratic pretenses. Essays on this play might explore Wilde's witty dialogue, the social commentary embedded within the humor, or the characters' quest for personal freedom amidst societal expectations.

  21. The Social Class in The Importance Of Being Earnest

    The Importance of Being Earnest is a play authored by Oscar Wilde. The most dominant theme in the play is the issue of social class. Apparently, three categories of classes are portrayed in the play, though only two of them direct the main focus of the drama. That is, the upper class and the lower class. Wilde depicts the two classes through ...

  22. The Importance of Being Earnest: a preview

    At its heart, The Importance of Being Earnest is a play about humans, and one we can relate to almost 130 years after its release. Sophia remarks fondly that Gwendolen, beneath her tough and intellectual front, is actually "just a naive girl who wants to be loved and cherished. In that way, I think she represents many women", she adds ...

  23. Deception and Irony in "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde

    And people from the upper class are focused more on issues such as social standing, money and family background rather than issues like having a romantic relationship. ... Andrea L., et al. The Importance of Being Earnest in Social Media ; The Importance of Being Earnest in Social Media : Juxtaposing Oscar Wilde's Script with an Empirical ...