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Wilde succeeds in criticizing the Victorian era by using satire to show the reality of the society of the time. Throughout the movie, we can clearly see the characteristcs of the Victorian period. For example, the desire and pressure of marriage for young women of the time and always focused on the financial side. The characters are also part of a group that seems to be somewhat distinguished from English high society, which is relevant to why the movie is a critique.
The idea of the characters using pseudonyms to free themselves from the social norms of the time, and the confusions that they enter, reflects a critique of the model of conservatism, social and cultural customs of the period. This sheds light on a social critique of the time, offering us information on the culture of the Victorian period. Wilde succeeds in disturbing the audience because he portrays issues such as constructing a “social mask” covered in disguise.
During the film, we can realize that Wilde was familiar with the weaknesses and hypocrisies of Victorian society.
Wilde chose the name of the play to entertain with the adjective ‘Earnest’ that has a double meaning of being a name and also of honesty. The plot of the is based on Jack Worthing, the main character, has its obscure origin, as Thomas Cardew found it, a high-ranking person who adopts him in sequence, in a briefcase at Victoria Station in London. As the movies unfold, Jack Worthing becomes the guardian of his adoptive father’s granddaughter, a wonderful young woman named Cecily Cardew, but she extremely futile in matters related to culture and education.
Jack always tells Cecily that he has a younger brother named Ernest, who is very troublesome and irresponsible; he is always in trouble and as a result, still needing his assistance. Thus, Jack justifies his constant travels to the city and the fact that his brother remains invisible, never being allowed to visit his family in the countryside. When Jack arrives in London, he assumes another identity and becomes Ernest Worthing and justifies his constant trips to the city.
On one of his trips to London, Jack falls in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, daughter of Lady Bracknell, cousin of Jack’s best friend – Algernon Moncrief. Algy, through the cigarette holder that Ernest had forgotten in his possession, he learns of Cecily’s existence, thus becoming curious to know her. Soon after Algy questions Ernest about Cecily, Jack Worthing reveals that in the camp he is called that, while in town is Ernest Worthing. With that, he decided to visit Cecily in the country, posing as Ernest Worthing, Jack Worthing’s troubled younger brother.By the time Algy goes to the camp, Jack was not present because he had gone to put an end to his alleged brother and would return to the mourning camp for his death.Since Jack and Algernon have a double life under other names and the fact that there is a marriage interest from Jack to Gwendolen and Algernon to Cecily, the situation is funny because the two girls have the same dream of marrying a man named Ernest.
During the movie jack’s double life is discovered after confronting Aggy, and everything is clear, including Gwendolen and Cecily’s passion for a man named Ernest.Augusta Brecknell, Gwendolen’s mother, demonstrates the superficiality and futility of the society in which she lives in all her speeches. Concerning marriage, her position is solely for the sake of interest, depending on the material goods of the parties involved, so she disapproves of Gwendolen’s marriage with Jack because of her background, but supports Algy’s marriage to Cecily because she is heir to great fortune. Shocked by the discovery of who Jack really is, Augusta Brecknell makes a reference to the place where Jack went found (a briefcase) referring to it as if it was like a social mask and how it would never be part of the high society.
In this plot, it is important to highlight how Wilde is successful in the satire made of that empty and superficial society that was more concerned with an elegant name, with origins and peoples material goods. His satire is always very conscious, so Wilde takes advantage of the differences between appearance and reality, thus exposing hypocrisy. The irony is also a form of criticism because it says one thing meaning another and therefore reaching its target, which is similar in satire because it needs two essential elements, which are the humor and the object of attack. During the movie, satire and irony appear all over the place, exploring the differences between appearance and reality and exposing the distorted values of that society.The paradox, stylistic feature used by Wilde, has many ironic effects, as seen in the way serious things are treated, such as the institution of marriage.
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