Read The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde: Notes. by Ruth Robbins by Oscar Wilde Free Online
Book Title: The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde: Notes. by Ruth Robbins|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 710 KB
ISBN 13: 9781405801737
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Reader ratings: 7.6
The author of the book: Oscar Wilde
Edition: Longman Publishing Group
Date of issue: June 1st 2005
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“We live in an age of ideals”
Wilde is a genius. This play is genius. What a penetrating critique of high Victorian society this becomes; but rather than being a dull argument or essay, it takes on the body of a hilarious play. This is just absurd, outrageous and straight to the point. This picture says it all to me:
Jack undergoes a great deal of social mobility prior to the events of the play; however, Bracknell, who represents the rigidness of British aristocracy, is very alarmed that such a man could marry her daughter. He is not worthy enough. When Jack explains the details of the train line he was left at, she ironically exclaims: “The line is immaterial.” And that such a marriage would remind her of: “the worst excesses of the French revolution.” The dialogue is utterly genius. The best thing about it is that the characters are completely unaware of their own absurd hypocrisy. The train line doesn’t matter, but his bloodline does.
Bracknell loves money. It’s one of the only reasons she actually listens to Jack’s request to marry her daughter. Later, she becomes suddenly interested in Cecily after learning of her inheritance. It means there could be more money for the rich. It is one of the key things on her ideal husband list for Gwendolyn. It’s also key element of the play that demonstrates the absurdity of her class, but it is second only to the importance of appearance. Money is great, but if you look like a fool in society then you’re ruined.
Through this Wilde is demonstrating the ridiculous nature of Victorian morality, and how concerned it is with a perfect societal image. Bracknell’s daughter could not be seen forming an alliance with a handbag. Marriage is simply a business transaction, a way to improve one’s wealth and station. There is nothing for the Bracknell’s in such an alliance; love simply does not enter the question. The possible increase in wealth is overshadowed by tarnishing the family name. This is an opinion earlier mentioned by Algernon. Whilst social mobility is possible in Wilde’s play, it is resented by those that are the established elite regardless of their own meagre origins. Hypocrisy reigns supreme.
‘Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.’
Algernon and Jon both become gluttonous towards food. This demonstrates the greed that permeates the morale fabric of Victorian society, as neither of these men actually actively work and they just spend their time self-indulging through their respective false identities. They simply consume without producing in their self-aggrandised manners. The rich have a sense of false entitlement that Wilde questions heroically; he demonstrates that the supposed morale fabric that governs higher society is completely false: it is a trick, a mere appearance whilst the members live secret lives.
“My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest degree”
And here comes the crux of the play. The persona of Earnest becomes a means of escape for Jack, and later Algernon; it becomes a means for letting loose and maintaining his position within society. He can bare all the graces of a Victorian gentleman, the perfects ideal, but he can also have fun. The living of double lives suggests the strictness of society, and the lengths the members could take to momentarily escape its rigid bounds. This also suggests the ease to which they can shift between the public and private sectors of their personalities. It’s not hard to pretend. It’s not hard to go “bumbrying.”
There’s some extensive doubling going on. At times it reminded me of Shakespeare’s wonderful Twelfth Night, and at other points there were undertones of Wilde’s masterpiece The Picture of Dorian Grey. The Victorians judged people on their appearance and their supposed morale character. So what do you do if you have a slightly deviant nature? You can’t let yourself be ruined within society. That’s paramount to death. So a fictional alter ego is the perfect excuse to go and indulge. But lies always catch up with people; it was obvious that this would end in an explosion of realisations.
Thus everything becomes perfectly inverted. Morality and the constraints it imposes on society is a favourite topic of conversation. The characters have some rather hilarious notions as to what is right and what is wrong. Reading a cigarette case is an ungentlemanly act; culture is dependent on what one shouldn’t read and Algernon thinks the servant class has a responsibility to set a moral standard for the upper classes. Bracknell takes on the role of clan patriarch, and the men have typical female traits whilst the women become active in seeking their ideal husband. At times they say things that make absolutely no sense, but such is the nature of ideals.
It’s all incredibly comic. The point is that people can become so enamoured, so quickly, with an ideal that doesn’t exist. They want perfection not a reflection of the real person. It’s Wilde’s perfect demonstration of how stupid Victorian society was. It’s a fun play, but there are serious undertones. It’s an effective critique of society, very much set down in the way he argued good criticism should be in his essay The Critic as Artist. Wilde is an artist, and this is a fine critique. It’s immensely clever and hilarious in the process.
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Read information about the authorOscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.
As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.