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What sort of Society and Values does Wilde present inThe Importance Of Being Earnest?

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Introduction

What sort of Society and Values does Wilde present in The Importance Of Being Earnest? Oscar Wilde presents a very candid impression of Victorian society and its values in The Importance Of Being Earnest. The title itself represents the irony of the play. The word earnest works on two levels- first the name Ernest, which is the main focus of the play, and also it sounds like honest which is exactly what Jack and Algernon- the two main characters of the play-are not. There are four main themes which can be recognised in the play: social snobbery, money matters, appearance matters and false values and lastly, not being sincere. In this essay I intend to focus on each category to highlight the society Wilde describes and the values he portrays. These will be backed up by quotations from the play. The first theme I shall look at is social snobbery. Social snobbery is where one class looks down on a lower class for example upper class people regarding the lower class as one to provide services for them. In the play Wilde often describes the social snobbery of the characters, Lady Bracknell being a prime example. She considers the lower class as inferior to her, as can be demonstrated in her interrogation with Jack in act one. ...read more.

Middle

He tells her that he has received a telegram to inform him that this Bunbury is terribly ill so he won't be able to dine with her and her only response to this is, 'I hope not...it would put my table completely out. Your uncle would have to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accustomed to that.' She isn't really bothered by the fact that her nephew won't be there, just that her seating arrangement of boy-girl-boy-girl will be ruined. Cecily and Gwendolen, the girls who both happen to be engaged to Ernest, both want to marry this character purely because of the name. Gwendolen felt that her ideal has 'always been to marry someone of the name Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence...I knew I was destined to love you.' And when Jack asks if she would love him if he had another name, such as Jack, she says that she pities any woman married to a man of that name. This is an example of a false value, as the name of someone is irrelevant, it is the personality that matters. Cecily too felt that she could only marry a man called Ernest, and in the second act she states that she has always has 'a girlish dream to love some one whose name was Ernest. ...read more.

Conclusion

Which is a contradiction as well as showing a lack of sincerity. Lady Bracknell is often insincere and this is brought to light in the first act after she hears the news that Mr. Worthing has lost both his parents. She claims that 'To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.' Which is very untrue as nobody chooses to lose a parent. Then when he shows how devoted he is to her daughter she advises him on how to win her hand in marriage. She recommends Jack to acquire some relations 'as soon as possible' and to make an effort to produce a parent of either sex before the season is over. This is an impossible thing to do, but there is irony as in the end, he does find out who his parents are, and though he cannot produce them in front of Lady Bracknell, she knows who they are- her sister and brother-in-law in fact. This is another time when the characters show signs of not being sincere. In The Importance Of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde manages to put forward the social snobbery, superficial values, money and appearance matters that the upper class of society had and as he seems to be against all this, he is biased. ?? ?? ?? ?? Laura Bickley 10E1 27/04/07 ...read more.

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