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The Importance Of Being Earnest Essay

403 words - 2 pages

Because Victorian norms were so repressive and suffocating, Wilde creates episodes in which his characters live secret lives or create false impressions to express who they really are. Jack and Algernon both create personas to be free. These other lives allow them to neglect their duties in Algernon's case, or to leave their duties and pursue pleasure, which happens to be in Jack's case. Various characters in the play allude to passion, sex and moral looseness. Chasuble and Prism's flirting and coded conversations about things sexual, Algernon stuffing his face ...view middle of the document...

Wilde exposes this divide in scenes such as when Gwendolen and Cecily behave themselves in front of the servants or when Lady Bracknell warms to Cecily upon discovering she is rich, but the play truly pivots around the word "earnest." Both women want to marry someone named "Ernest," as the name inspires "absolute confidence"; in other words, the name implies that its bearer truly is earnest, honest, and responsible.Victorian values were perpetuated through courtship and marriage, both of which had their own rules and rituals. The strict Victorian class system, in which members of the same class marry each other, perpetuates the gulf between the upper, middle and lower classes. Snobbish, aristocratic attitudes further preserve the distance between these groups. The aristocratic Victorians valued duty and respectability above all else. Earnestness, a determined and serious desire to do the correct thing was at the top of the code of conduct. Appearance was everything, and style was much more important than substance.Wilde's most concrete critique in the play is of the manipulative desires revolving around marriage. Gwendolen and Ceicily desires to marry someone named "Ernest" demonstrate how their romantic dreams hinge upon titles, not character.

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