How does Oscar Wilde exploit Victorian ideas of good manners to comic effect in the opening of "The Importance of Being Earnest"?

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The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde - How does Oscar Wilde exploit Victorian ideas of good manners to comic effect in the opening of the play?

The opening scene of The Importance of Being Earnest establishes a, unrealistic world in which no one talks the way ordinary people talk and very little seems to matter to anyone. Algernon and Lane, as well as most other characters in the play, are both literary constructs. They have almost no life or significance apart from the way they talk. Their language is sharp, brittle, and full of elegant witticisms and ironic pronouncements. This shows an emphasis on how much it matters on what you say, not who you are, which was uncommon in Victorian times as stature was an important part in having your voice heard. This adds to the establishment of an unrealistic world in a more explicit way, since it directly contrasts Victorian life. Lane’s first line, for example, regarding Algernon’s piano playing, is an insult coated in polite, elegant language. We can see the play’s lack of realism in the way Algernon and Lane behave over Lane’s inaccurate entry in the household books. Lane has entered considerably more wine than was actually drunk to cover the fact that he himself has been drinking huge amounts of expensive champagne on the sly. Algernon shows no more concern over the stealing than Lane does over its having been discovered, and both men seem to take for granted that servants steal from their masters. In the world of the play, the deception is simply an expected daily nuisance. It represents a sort of domesticated battle between the two characters, who are both too polite to one another to broach the subject of misconduct amongst the household and its servants.

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A central purpose of the scene between Algernon and Lane is to lay the foundation for the joke about the cucumber sandwiches, an incident that marks the first appearance of food as a source of conflict as well as a substitute for other appetites. Algernon has ordered some cucumber sandwiches especially for Lady Bracknell, but during the scene with Lane, he eats all the sandwiches himself. In this particular scene, food substitutes for the idea of sex. Again we see the importance of manners here as the link is not directly confirmed, due to the timing being inappropriate or due ...

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