Marriage In Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest

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Oscar Wilde’s Victorian melodramatic play The Importance of Being Earnest opened on February 14, 1895. Wilde used this play to criticize Victorian society through clever phrasing and satire. Throughout the play The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde displayed the themes of the nature of marriage, the constraints of morality, and the importance of not being earnest. One of the themes that Oscar Wilde includes in the play is the nature of marriage. The idea that marriage is treated as a business is expressly shown by multiple characters. The most recognizable example is Lady Bracknell after she learns that Jack proposed to her daughter, Gwendolen. “Lady Bracknell: I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men,…show more content…
Neither the master nor the servant respected the established verticality (Baselga). Not only did Algernon do this with Lane, but he also happened to have a conflict with Jack that is another jab at the Victorian idea of morality: Jack: It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case. Algernon: Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.” (Wilde 6) Wilde made fun of the Victorian idea of morality as a “rigid body of rules” whose purpose is to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do (Sparknotes, Morality) Wilde’s play offers “rather biting … criticism of the institutions and values that … made Britain the world 's greatest colonial power…show more content…
For instance, Lady Bracknell’s hypocritical nature is exposed when the topic of marriage is brought up. “Lady Bracknell: But I do not approve of mercenary marriages. When I married Lord Bracknell, I had no fortune of any kind. But I never dreamed for a moment of allowing that to stand in my way (Wilde 78).” She is being a hypocrite because her marriage to Lord Bracknell was mainly because of his money. In addition, Lady Bracknell encouraged Cecily to marry Algernon because of money alone, but that wasn’t enough for Jack to marry Gwendolen (Litcharts, Hypocrisy). However, after she discovered Jack was in fact well-born she no longer questioned his sincerity. Also, the issue on who was really “Ernest” was another form of hypocrisy. “Neither Jack nor Algernon is ‘really’ earnest or Ernest, and the fact that they can both become Ernest, one by a late baptism and one by reverting to an identity lost in infancy, suggests that their being seen as or deemed earnest is as much a matter of appearance and acceptance as their being deemed Ernest, that is, a matter of hypocrisy (Byrne
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