“The Importance of Being Earnest”
By Oscar Wilde.
Student: Marcos Maciel
Class: 6th year.
The play “The importance of being Earnest”, written in 1895 by Oscar Wilde, has become a classic comedy and his most important production during his entire career. Wilde stated that the aim of the play was that “We should treat all the trivial thingsof life seriously and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality”. The play is a mock to the high social classes that considered themselves serious, Wilde achieved this as the play is completely plain, it has neither an important message to the audience nor it “moves” them. The play addresses serious matters as marriage or politics with superficial eyes, indifference andlack of respect. Below I’ll analyze how Wilde shares his opinions towards this lack of seriousness found in his Victorian society, focusing in how the characters deal with marriage.
The title of the play makes allusion to the need of seriousness in life by the use of the name “Earnest”. This name means sincerity and seriousness. We can see how Wilde employees this wordplay in several situationssuch as the final line of the play when Jack says “…I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest”. As everything that he lied about appeared suddenly to be true, that he had indeed a reckless brother and that his name was Earnest. This wordplay is also applied in Gwendolen and Cecily’s desires of marrying a man whose name is Earnest, as “There is somethingin that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence.” (Cecily, page 42) They both state that they will marry neither Algernon nor Jack due to their Christian names, that the name is an “insuperable barrier”.
Another hint of the triviality that can be found in the play is the lack of importance that “serious people” give to love, an important matter in the Victorian society and their plays.This specially contrasts with Wilde’s previous comedy that was even written in the same year, “An ideal Husband” in which love is the main theme. In “The Importance of Being Earnest” these “serious people” are incarnated mostly as Lady Bracknell and Algernon Moncrieff, although all the other characters eventually disgrace both love and marriage. Examples of these are Lady Bracknell’s inquiriesbefore any engagement. She considers herself capable of accrediting if someone’s couple is acceptable or not. These inquires are based on superficial questions that would determine if the candidate is socialy acceptable according to his family lineage (if it’s aristocratic or not), his/her economy, the ubication of his/her properties and house, between others.
Algernon demonstrates his banalitytowards marriage continuously in his absurd or ironical comentaries, the play even start with a conversation between him and Lane in which Algernon states “Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralizing as that?” (Algernon, page 7), after that he shows indiference towards Lane’s aknowledgment towards marriage as he tells him “Idon’t know that I’m much interesed in your family life, Lane.” (Algernon, page8). A curious fact is that in this discussion between Aglernon and Lane, Lane states that his first marriage was due to a misunderstood between him and a young girl, by which Algernon later states to be “a lack of moral responsability” (Algernon, page 8), still, Algernon at the end of the play follows Lane’s same path by proposing to Cecily who is only 18 years old.
Another conversation which isagainst marriage is in page 33, “But is man not equally attractive when married?(Chasuble). No married men is ever attractive except to his wife (Miss Prism). And often I’ve been told, not even to her (Chasuble)”, they argue that people get worse after marrying, as they became less desirable even to the beloved one, except both focus in their knowledge and are “mature”. This discussion is...