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What sort of society and values does Oscar Wilde present in “Importance of being Earnest”?

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What sort of society and values does Oscar Wilde present in "Importance of being Earnest"? In the days when the play was set, people were spilt into three different classes. There were the Upper class people, who lived in an aristocrat society, who mainly invested from lands. Then, there were the tradesmen, who had "new wealth" which they made from their businesses. Finally, you would have the lower class people, who were the servants of the upper classes. The characters in the play are leading a comfortable life. They live in a sophisticated life style, where everything for them is a breeze, they have servants to do all the work for them, while they sit and relax. They lead a superior life style, everyone under them has to look up to them. The lower classes are expected to respect them. In act 1, when Lady Bracknell visits Algernon, he had eaten all the cucumber sandwiches, which were especially made for her. As a good and loyal servant should do, Lane lies to get his master out of trouble, which is what all good servants should do. Algernon quotes, "...if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?" This shows what they thought of the lower classes as being their "guide to life". Lady Bracknell quotes, "Nor do I approve in anyway of the modern sympathy with invalids" when speaking to Algernon about Mr Bunbury. She says this with coldness and in an uncaring way. The aristocrat society lives on an unearned income. They, do not have to work for their living, they needn't a job. ...read more.


Gwendolen says, "There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence" She says that she was destined to love him as soon as she heard the name mentioned. She says that the name, "Produces vibrations" This shows us that the first thing Gwendolen looks for in a man is his name. "Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination," quotes Gwendolen. The name Jack sounds such a plain name, when you think of Jack, you think of someone who lives in the country, who is quite plain and simple. The name Ernest though, sounds more aristocrat and when saying it, Ernest sounds more interesting than Jack does. She looks for a husband who will listen and do everything she commands, just how Lady Bracknell treats her husband. I know this, from the line Gwendolen says at the end of her engagement discussion with Jack. She says, "I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people present" referring to Jack's blue eyes, like a puppy-dog face. She wants him to be like a dog on a leash that she can take with her anywhere and have him well trained. Cecily, a more plain girl, it would seem, but she is also picky with names. She and Gwendolen both say that they, "pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest." Algernon thinks his name is rather an aristocratic name, but Cecily would only give all her love to someone with the name of Ernest. She here is being a little judgmental towards the name of a person. It's like how Gwendolen first met Cecily, Cecily told her, her name and Gwendolen in turn replies, "What a very sweet name! ...read more.


Lady Bracknell quotes, "That in families of high position strange coincidences are not suppose to occur," referring to the confusion of Jack's true identity. She is trying to say that only the common would find themselves in these inexplicable situations. People, according to Lady Bracknell, are only considered respected, if they are seen at social gatherings and dinner parties. "...They count as Tories. They dine with us." And "Indeed I am told that one of the Mr Markby's is occasionally to be seen as dinner parties. So far I am satisfied." These are examples of this way of judging people by their attendance to social parties, that Lady Bracknell says in the play. People who went to Oxford were said to be truthful people, but this is a lie as Algernon went to Oxford and has told many lies in the play. Algernon says, "Literacy criticism should be left to those who didn't go to university," Therefore the ones who could not afford to attend universities, but earn a living from writing critical comments in the newspapers. The uproar between Cecily and Gwendolen, is quite amusing, as they both have to try and control their surge of anger, for the sake of their reputation. They don't want Merriman to see them having a bickering, which could break out into violence, that is not what an upper class lady would do, it's something that you would see the lower class do. Gwendolen throws such snoberish comments at Cecily. "Sugar is not fashionable anymore," and "Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays," which really puts Cecily down. Gwendolen tells Cecily that she hates crowds, which is ironic, as Cecily replies to this, "I suppose that's why you live in town?" and Gwendolen is furious. ...read more.

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