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The Importance of Being Earnest

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Introduction

The Importance of Being Earnest Compare and contrast the pairs of the characters: * Jack and Algernon * Cecily and Gwendolen * Lady Bracknell and Miss Prism The Importance of Being Earnest was written and published in 1895 by Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. Oscar Wilde wrote the book to express his opinion of the Victorian society. He thought the Victorians were too status conscious and too proper in their ways. Therefore, he wrote a play of characters opposing and over exaggerating Victorian ways. The Importance of Being Earnest was his most epigrammatic, and wittiest work and became his masterpiece. Algernon and Jack Algernon Moncrief is one of the plays major characters. Oscar Wilde has given him the most exaggerated character in the play and he portrayed as a typical Victorian but rather holds views contrary to the normally accepted Victorian values. Algernon's personality is outrageous yet he acts well in public, as he knows that this is what people are judged on. He lives in a comic world where nothing is taken seriously, he is light-hearted, witty and he disregards conventional morality; as we see in the opening scene where Algy and Lane joke about Lanes unsuccessful marriage and the dishonest drinking, on Lanes part, of champagne. Lane says: 'I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely at first rate brand' towards the end of act three this gap becomes less; for example at the end of act two he then Algy's language and conversation is highly formalised; it is the speech of a privileged young gentleman. However, sometimes he does not believe in and follow what he says; for example Algy tells Jack not to eat the cucumber sandwiches and then promptly begins to devour them himself. However towards the end of the play he begins to accept reality and becomes more conventional. Jack Worthing is one of the plays moralistic individuals, being very in touch with his romantic side. However, his character is also over exaggerated. ...read more.

Middle

She is introduced to us as having a close affinitive to nature and Algernon states that she is "like a pink rose". However, she is not a figure of nature incarnate. The roses in the garden are cultivated rather than wild and natural. Cecily has some pronounced characteristics, such as a vast appetite, she is inattentive to her studies and she picks up the social etiquette swiftly. Her language is silly and unorganised and she does not have the sophistication of acting in society. Both are born into the upper classes; Gwendolen is an aristocrat, her father being Lord Bracknell, whilst Cecily is a wealthy Middleton. Cecily's grandfather, a wealthy merchant left Cecily in the hands of his adopted son, Jack, when he passed away. Both the girls are rich but having been brought up differently they have a dissimilar attitude towards money. Gwendolen, who like her mother believes that money is there for spending, splashes out on luxury items, whereas Cecily possesses a more moralistic view of money. Gwendolen and Cecily posses the same girlish attitude to life are virtual clones of each other. They keep a diary, they dream of marrying a man called Ernest, and they call each other 'sister' when they discover the sham that has been practised on them over the reality of Ernest Worthing. They both believe that education is unimportant when social status is at hand. Cecily does not enjoy education, she states, " Horrid political economy! Horrid Geography! Horrid, horrid German!" Likewise Gwendolen, like her mother, sees education as unnecessary and, although she attends college, she does not attend a worthy lecture; "University Extension Scheme of a permanent income on Thought". From this statement we can see that Oscar Wilde is mocking the Upper Class and their morals. They lead lives in different places and therefore have different social attitudes. Cecily, living in the country, is a simple girl who has little experience with society. ...read more.

Conclusion

But education was also her ruin; she lost a baby when a novel sidetracked her. Due to Lady Bracknell's very forceful character she did not let the fact that she was middle class deter her from her aim of a good marriage. Lady Bracknell has very set views for what her daughter should marry into. When managing her daughter's possible future marriage she remains business-like and image-orientated. She judges what is best for her daughter but does not take her daughters love to heart, only her financial interests. The ideal husband for her daughter would have to be financially and socially suitable. He would have a good image and a house on the fashionable side of town. Nothing is good enough for her, as we see when Jack, during his interview, gives her his town address, Jack states "I own a house in Belgrave square"-number "149" And Lady Bracknell replies, "...the unfashionable side". She has views on marriage contrary to today's accepted values; she does not believe that one marries for love. To her marriage is a business arrangement rather than a love-match Miss Prism's timid character has meant that she has not managed a good marriage yet. She loves Canon Chasuble but even her comical flirting with Chasuble is still timid. However, although unlike Lady Bracknell, she would be marrying for love, it was additionally an advantage that Chasuble is of a slightly higher class than Miss Prism. She is one of the oldest people in the play and like Lady Bracknell she is no longer attractive and is described by Lady Bracknell as "a female of repellent aspect". Lady Bracknell meanwhile has the funds to make the best of her appearance. In conclusion, although from different social classes the two elderly ladies can be seen to be not entirely different. They both place great emphasis on how people regard them and their social standing. However their positions in society have made their personalities what the are;; Miss Prism manages to creep around unnoticed whilst Lady Bracknell is loud and speaks her mind. ...read more.

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