The Importance of Being Earnest is a serious comedy about trivial matters The Importance of being Earnest is a play that satirizes the Victorian upper classes. In the play, Oscar Wide makes fun of the upper class in many ways. Most commonly, Wilde does this by using comic irony, humor, and witty statements. However, if we look deeper into the text, a lot of the trivial matters characters discuss have a serious side to them. Wilde uses these matters to satirize the Victorian upper even more. The seriousness of death is taken light-heartedly in the play.
Rather than associating death with sadness and suffering and grief Jack and Algy portray death as a method of conveniently eliminating unwanted people, whether imaginary or not. When Algy confesses that Bunbury is “Quite Exploded” something comical arises – however, his amusing phrase also has some serious implications. Although at first the fact that Bunbury has exploded may be hilarious, it is also shocking to some of the characters in the play, as Bunbury was “supposed” to be very close to Algy.
Furthermore, Algy talks about his death so lightly, that it makes it seem as if Algy couldn’t care less about losing a close friend. The worst part about the way Algy communicates Bunbury’s death, is that he never admits that Bunbury never existed and lies to all the characters who felt truly sorry for Bunbury. Jack also tells Algy, “If Gwendolen accepts me, I am going to kill my brother” because “Cecily is a little too much interested in him. ” Another trivial moment is when Jack admits to smoking in front of Lady Bracknell.
Lady Bracknell’s replies with: “Every man should have an occupation of some kind”. Although the audience may laugh at this moment, Wilde shows how the Victorian upper class had absolutely no work to do – and therefore categorized smoking as an occupation. Cucumber sandwiches also are also used to criticize the British upper classes. “No cucumber sandwiches! ” shows the absurdness of the upper classes. The scene and dialog is certainly comical, however, it shows how dramatic and over- the –top the British upper class was.
Moreover, in the Victorian Era, The Importance of Being Earnest was watched by middle classes as well was the upper class; the scene must have told the Middle classes a lot about the upper class, especially when they were dramatizing trivial matters like not having cucumber sandwiches. The Name “Earnest” is also very important in the play, as this too is an example of triviality and seriousness. Gwenolden states that her “ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest”.
Cecily says she pities “married woman whose husband is not called Ernest. ” The name Earnest in itself is a very trivial thing. Although the name Earnest “inspires utter confidence” Wilde makes fun of the fact that both Jack and Algy are very unhonest men. A name does not define the person’s personality or values, however the triviality of the name Ernest is taken out of proportions and treated very seriously in the play. In conclusion, Wilde satirizes the Victorian upper class by making fun of their trivial matters that they treat seriously.
Wilde almost swaps seriousness and triviality around so that serious issues are treated trivially and trivial issues are treated seriously. Although back in 19th Century the Victorian classes may have found the play hilarious, today we have a broader view and are able to understand Wilde’s message about the Victorian upper classes more. In fact, Wilde originally subtitled The Importance of Being Earnest “A Serious Comedy for Trivial People” but changed that to “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”. – Isn’t that the same thing though?
Courtney from Study Moose
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