• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examining the "insincerity, inauthenticity and unnaturalness" of Victorian high society in Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

ENGL 113 : Introduction to Literature and Cultural Politics Trimester 1, 2007 Assignment 2: Question 4: It has been suggested that The Importance of Being Earnest satirises the "insincerity, inauthenticity and unnaturalness" of Victorian high society. It has also been suggested that The Importance of Being Earnest celebrates these qualities and holds them up for our delighted admiration. Which of these interpretations of Wilde's play do you find more plausible, and why? If you think both statements are true, explain why. Thursday May 10, 2007 Charlotte French ~ 300075543 Tutorial Group : James, Monday 11am Word Count : 1556 words (including quotes) In the play The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde can be seen to both satirise elements of Victorian high society, and to celebrate them and hold them up for delighted admiration. Otto Rienert supports the argument of this play as a satire: "Wilde's basic formula for satire is [his characters'] assumption of a code of behaviour that represents the reality that Victorian convention pretends to ignore" (Rienert 15). But the assumption that The Importance of Being Earnest is trying to pass on a message to its audience about Wilde's opinions of Victorian society completely goes against Wilde's self-proclaimed commitment to aesthetic doctrines. As well as reading this play as a satire or celebration, it is possible to read it as a prime example of the aesthetic ideals Wilde and his contemporaries were trying to uphold. ...read more.

Middle

Serious and moralising Victorian audiences might have expected some sort of remonstrance, or at least Algy and Jack reforming their actions for the better. But they "steadfastly refuse to embrace the melodramatic practice of reconciling their behaviour to that of the middle class" (Gillespie 171). Instead, they embrace what it is to be a dandy. They are tamed from their renegade behaviours in some respects, but they continue to resist conforming to the conventions of Victorian life. The message that could be seen to lie behind the play is this: that anyone who did not recognise Jack and Algy as renegades, rather than dandies, does not understand the truth of dandyism. This can be seen as a criticism of Wilde's Victorian audience members and their stereotypes, for "only the uninitiated mistake the dandy for the renegade" (Gillespie 169). True dandies understand the difference between the sensational and the vulgar. At the beginning of the play, Jack and Algy are unaware of this distinction. But come the play's close, they have reformed to an appreciation of it. However, these assumptions about what Wilde might be trying to tell his audience do not align themselves with the doctrine of aestheticism. The discussion of moral messages and observations in The Importance of Being Earnest lean towards a more didactic approach to art. Addressing the play as either a satire or a celebration of Victorian society might also suggest that it is a mimetic approach. ...read more.

Conclusion

All writing is political, even when it attempts to be apolitical. The Importance of Being Earnest can definitely be enjoyed in its sense as a purely aesthetic piece of writing, but at the same time it is impossible to separate it from interpreted meanings with regard to the political and moral differences in opinion that surrounded Wilde at the time he wrote it. Sources * Beckson, Karl. "London in the 1890s." In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. 1895. Ed. Michael Patrick Gillepsie. London: Norton, 2006. 71-78 * Beckson, Karl. "Oscar Wilde." In Modern British Dramatists, 1900-1945. Part 2: M-Z. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 10. 204-218. Found on "The Victorian Web." http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/pva99.html Date accessed 08/05/2007 * Gillespie, Michael Patrick. "From Beau Brummel to Lady Bracknell: Re-viewing the Dandy in the Importance of Being Earnest." In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. 1895. Ed. Michael Patrick Gillepsie. London: Norton, 2006. 166-182. * Hardy, Linda. "The Case of Oscar Wilde: Lecture Four: Aesthetic Doctrines and The Importance of Being Earnest." 2007. Accessed via Victoria University Blackboard. http://blackboard.vuw.ac.nz/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab=courses&url=/bin/common/course.pl?course_id=_26380_1 Date accessed 08/05/2007. * Rienert, Otto. "Satiric Strategy in The Importance Qf Being Earnest." College English 18, 1 (Oct, 1956) 14-18. Found on "The Victorian Web." http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/pva99.html Date accessed 08/05/2007. * Wilde, Oscar. "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young." On the Website: "Famous World Trials: The Trial of Oscar Wilde." http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/wilde/wildeswritings.html Date accessed 08/05/2007. * Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. 1895. Ed. Michael Patrick Gillespie. London: Norton, 2006. 8 300075543 ~ Charlotte French ~ ENGL 113, Assignment 2 ~ 10/05/2007 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Other Play Writes section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Other Play Writes essays

  1. Langston Hughess play Mulatto: A Tragedy of the Deep South, opens on Colonel ...

    Unlike Norwood, Higgins rules over his African American workers with an iron fist. Robert Lewis is the youngest mulatto son of Cora Lewis and Colonel Thomas Norwood; his actions cause the conflict in the play and lead to the murder of Norwood and Robert's own suicide.

  2. It is misleading to see Ibsen as a critic of society. His plays ...

    Oh, sometimes I was so tired, so tired. But it was tremendous fun all the same, sitting there working and earning money like that. It was almost like being a man. (16) Her years of secret labour, which she has undertaken to pay off the debt, show Nora's fierce determination as well as ambition.

  1. The treatment of Women in the History of the United States as portrayed American ...

    * Women did not have to be the protagonist(s), but there needed to be strong interaction between the women and the male protagonist(s) and therefore contribute to the conflict in order for there to be enough depth for a conclusive analysis.

  2. An analysis of the dramatic structure of Kalidasa's "Abhinjanasakunthalam"

    Bharata speaks of it as a sacrifice. This idea comes from the Purusa sukta of the Rg-Veda , where the whole world is seen as a sacrifice. According to A. Berriedale Keith, Indian tradition gives drama a divine origin and close connections to the Vedas. (Keith 12).

  1. A Comparison between Strindbergs Miss Julie and Henrik Ibsens A Dolls House

    Julie wants to take with her it may symbolize herself and her identity. As she prefers to kill the bird rather than leaving it behind, she prefers to kill herself rather than staying in the same situation. The last symbol can be the fact that Julie commits suicide with Jean?s razor.

  2. Simmilarities and Differences between the Vladimir and Estragon and Pozzo and Lucky Pair ...

    Because of his rather gluttonous nature, however, he is often played as being short and slightly fat, in comparison to the often tall and lanky Vladimir. His clothes are usually a bit dirtier than Vladimir's as well, and seem to be in far worse condition.

  1. Japanese Americans. It is best to examine the Issei, Nesei relationship by looking at ...

    Additionally, in the Oriental Club Bull gives Ichiro a difficult time for not serving in the Army, claiming, ??No-no boys don?t look so good without the striped uniform?? (74).

  2. Dandyism and Moralism in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband

    LORD GORING: No, father, I am not married. LORD CAVERSHAM: Hum! That is what I have come to you to talk about, sir. You have got to get married, and at once. Why, when I was your age, sir, I had been an inconsolable widower for three months, and was already paying my addresses to your admirable mother.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work