Earnestness In Victorian Culture Essay

The Importance of Being Earnest essay

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?Eng lit essay 2 Topic question: How does Oscar Wilde bring out Victorian values through his portrayal of the following characters? 1. Algernon and Jack- Aristocratic men 2. Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen- Aristocratic women Oscar Wilde brings out Victorian values through the following ways in portraying the mentioned characters. 1. First of all, the major target of Wilde’s scathing social criticism is the hypocrisy that society creates. Jack uses his ‘brother’s’ identity, Ernest to keep his honorable, upright and moral image while Ernest enables Jack to escape the boundaries of his real life.

The often occurrences of lies and duplicity show how values of honesty, responsibility and earnestness were truly muddled during the Victorian Times. 2. Moreover, it is already stated that ‘we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality. ’ at the very beginning. Algernon and Jack is ironically painted as characters that trivialize serious matters and solemnize petty matters, so Wilde can criticize the upper echelons of society by satiring their false values, shallow interests and superficial lifestyles in this sarcastic sentence.

In addition to that, the pretentious statement made by Gwendolen, ‘In fact, I am never wrong. ’ also implies to audiences that the aristocrats believe they are models of comportment and correct behavior. Nobles comfort themselves in the upper-class society with manipulative and idle attitudes. Victorian Times’ culture such as literature, universities and religious traditions are also being intentionally mocked in the play. Wilde mainly exposes the leisure, empty, trivial lives of the aristocracy through Algernon as he stand-in for Wilde himself who has a playful, irreverent nature.

Algernon is a hedonist who makes cynical comments and likes nothing better than to eat and gossip, for example he thinks it is “shallow” for people not to be “serious” about meals. He is immoral, witty, flippant, recognizing no duty other than speaking ‘nonsense’, making delightful paradoxical and epigrammatic pronouncements. Furthermore, Algernon counters with the suggestion that it is the married man who needs Bunbury the most, which demonstrates a hint that all husbands in Victorian society ‘need’ double lives.

Wilde seems to be implying that the reason for married men to have double lives is for keeping their secret of being homosexual. On behalf of hiding from being concealed by ‘social indiscretion’, his self-experience is likely to have drawn in. 3. On the other hand, the theme of marriage is viewed as a financial ‘business’ in the play. What Lady Bracknell subjects Jack in the interview, are based on a set of assumptions about the nature and purpose of marriage in Victorian Times.

One’s social position and income define his character is one of the vital Victorian values being brought out. To judge one, aristocrats put a higher premium on social connections than on his character or goodness, which demonstrates their mercenary and snobbish esteem of mind. Through ‘shilly-shallying’ questions asked and absurd pronouncements made such as“to lose both looks like carelessness. ”, Lady Bracknell reveals another important Victorian value: poverty and misfortune are, to some extent, an outcome of moral unworthiness. . Comically, Wilde also manages to satirize the hypocrisy and stupidity of the British aristocracy through unintentional hilarious pronouncements made by Lady Bracknell. He oftens makes fun of her and humor is especially brought out through her sarcastically ‘affectionate’ figure, such as the ridiculous that she actually values ignorance, which she sees as “a delicate exotic fruit. ” 5. Last but not least, Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen represent an inversion of conventional Victorian womanhood.

During Victorian Times, women ought to be weak and ineffectual, helpless and passive while men were supposed to be authoritative and competent. Lady Bracknell usurps the role of the father in interviewing Jack and Gwendolen takes charge of her own romantic life, while the men stand by watching in a relatively passive role. As ‘apples don’t fall far from the tree’, Gwendolen has a similar character as her mother, Lady Bracknell, especially when making vacuous, outrageous and silly pronouncements. While Lady Bracknell is a ‘perfectly unbearable’, narrow-minded authoritarian, Gwendolen is also ruthless and overbearing.

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They are both dominating and strong-minded characters who want to control people around them. For example when Jack stammers during his marriage proposal, Gwendolen encourages him to be ‘more demonstrative’ and ironically takes up the role of being the relatively active gender. In conclusion, Wilde basically overturns every idea the narrow-minded Victorian moralists to achieve the aim of mocking the Victorian values. http://www. gradesaver. com/the-importance-of-being-earnest/study-guide/major-themes/ http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/earnest/themes. html

The Importance of Being Earnest essay

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A Satire on the Victorian Age in The Importance of Being Earnest

In this play The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde satirized the Victorian age. By making a mockery of the Victorian ideals, Wilde threw a satirical spotlight on the Victorian age as a whole. The Victorian society fell in a passionate love with the idea of earnestness. The idea of living in an earnest manner was the topmost ideals of the Victorian society. Earnestness was held as the virtue sublime in the Victorian society.


Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The society was so attached to the fake ideals of earnestness that it was ready to pay any price for it. This frenzied and frantic thrust towards the ideals pressurized individuals to live a double life. People became double dealers in an attempt to live life earnestly. The late nineteenth century British people gradually became hypocritical in their fashionable and faddish struggle to obtain the ideals of earnestness. This line of rush for the earnest life made people compromise with anything. Ugly, selfishness, unnecessary pride, false sense of self-worth and dangerous haughtiness developed as evils which corroded the simple charm and unspoiled nature of people. The Victorian society was outwardly flowery. It was artificial and hollow within.

The upper middle class haughty and arrogance nature is critiqued by Wilde. Lady Bracknell arrogantly dismisses Jack's proposal to Gwendolen. Her haughty manner makes an appearance when she interrogates Jack whether he is really qualified to be her son in law or not. To the utter shame of the readers, she had kept all the bio-data and testimonials of those who dared to propose to Gwendolen, but proved unqualified suitors for her daughter. It is really unbecoming of lady Bracknell to take such a complete control over her daughter's right to choose a suitable life friend. This haughty trend available in the upper middle class people is critically exposed by Wilde in this play.

In the play two characters are shown putting the virtue of earnestness on the pedestal. Jack Worthing and Algernon are those characters who are obsessed with the name earnestness. Jack lives in a country house. He knows it clearly that modern Victorian lady in urban society falls quickly in love with a man named Earnest. But he had a country name Jack. So to arrest the love of an urban lady Jack took another fictitious name Earnest and went to London. This kind of hypocritical life of Jack is an example of double life. Why Jack took the name Earnest? The answer is an urban lady loves only those whose names are Earnest. Because Victorian society permitted youths to lead a double life, Jack chose that name. The faddish cult of living an earnest life was on the rise in the Victorian society. Therefore Jack engaged in the cult of Bunburying. With the name Earnest Jack went to town to meet his friend, Algernon. He met Gwendolen. Gwendolen knew his name was Earnest. She fell in love with him on the spot. From Gwendole’s behavior, readers come to know how ridiculous the Victorian society had become. What can be more ludicrous than the statement of Gwendolen, who says, “I love you because your name is Ernest?” What kind of love, it is whose foundation is not devotion on the part of lower but a mere verbal charm of name? What does the society get from those people who fall in love out of the magical, charm of name only? Jack, and Gwendolen alone are not accountable for the shallowness and artificiality that degrades the society. It is the then Victorian society which made room for youths to run after a depthless and essence-less life. Her mad thirst for love based on the charming name earnest made Gwendolen's love substance-less. Jack's hypocritical style of living in town by the fictitious name earnest made him a double dealer. Jack became liar in the process of living an earnest life. He told his ward, Cecily that his brother named Earnest lives in town, he falls sick, so he has to visit him in town.

In the same and a similar way, Algernon took a false name earnest, and went to the village to earn the love of Cecily. Algernon had known that Cecily loves Jack’s fictitious brother named Earnest. So Algernon went to meet her under the impression that he is Jack's brother.

Both man and woman became the victims of hypocrisy, and the vice of double dealing. These evils persisted in Victorian society. Particularly, the upper middle classes were encumbered by the folly of rushing for the hollow ideals of earnestness. Both Jack and Algernon represent the upper middle class. Their lives were full of vices and follies.

Oscar Wilde has attacked the Victorian age for its attachment to loveless life. The love defined by the Victorian society was devoid of love. In the play Wilde shows Jack and Algernon are being in loveless love with Gwendolen and Cecily respectively. Even Gwendolen and Cecily love their respective lovers for their noble names Ernest only and not for them. We are ashamed to hear such a declaration of love. Love for the name of beloved and not for him/her become the driving principle of youth. This love devoid of emotional depth is satirized by Wilde in the play.

In the play we find Gwendolen following the dictates of the fashions. In this direction of obeying the sovereign tyranny of the fashion she lost even a remnant of courage to assert her will. This ludicrous plight of Gwendolen can be seen in her submissive reactions to every word of her mother.

The Victorian morality is slightly hinted at by Wilde in a satirical manner. Dr. Chasuble's relaxed concentration on Sermon reveals his loose preoccupation with moral consciousness. The moral consciousness of the Victorian people can be known a bit from the religious commitment of Dr. Chasuble. Chasuble is the sort of priest who gives sermons repeatedly with a view to satisfy the moods of the attendants. Instable moral consciousness of Dr. Chasuble reflects from his surrender to the affections of Mrs. Prism. From Chasuble's moral predicament readers come across the satirical standpoint of the dramatist regarding the wavering moral faith in the Victorian society. Life in Victorian society was full of hustle and bustle. People were anxious. Much more business kept people confined in their own privacy. The deeply hidden anxiety made Victorian people absent-minded. Miss Prism is a victim of Victorian absent-mindedness.

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