Monday, November 3, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

A) Absurdity

Oscar Wilde's farce, The Importance of Being Earnest, is a social satire on the absurdity of the upper class in the Victorian Era and on self-deemed members of "high society". Throughout the entire play, the characters, who remain static, simply talk of literary fluff; there is no weight whatsoever in what they say. The character Algernon is a prime example of someone who can't differentiate important situations in life from frivolous ones. When he talks to his "friend" (How they consider their argumentative relationship, a friendship is completely ridiculous) Jack, they always argue over foolish things, such as how to correctly eat muffins, how to keep possession of one's cigarette tin correctly, and so on. These characters satirize high society in that they always believe that they are right, no matter how absurd the conversation is. When talking about what they should do Jack simply replies how everything is horrible and the only great thing to do is absolutely nothing. And the absurdity by no means stops here. The characterization of Cecily and Gwendolyn lends further credence to the ridiculousness of this need for high social standing. Both appear outrightly the epitome of high class, in a physical sense, yet on the inside both are as dull as the numerous things they reject. Cecily is so bored with her life that she foolishly believes the lie about earnest and writes letters from Earnest addressed to her. She even goes as far as to buy herself her own gifts from "Earnest". The entire lack of any concrete storyline or characters helps Wilde project his opinions of a truly foolish class of society.

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"Lady Bracknell: Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think that it is high time that Mr. Bunbury should make up his mind on whether he is going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do i in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life. I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much far as any improvement in his ailment goes. I should be obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when everyone has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much."

The flamboyant attitude and revolting opinionated character that is Lady Bracknell is Wilde's greatest implementation of satire from a singular character in this play. Bracknell's entire opinion is one that is incredibly ridiculous both in its logic and in its compassion. She expects someone to simply get healthier on request or die, which is absolutely absurd. Along these lines the made up practice of Bunburying is one that shows the frivolous nature of Jack and Algernon. They both use this practice as a shield to deflect any responsibility. At the end of the novel, however, the lies they formulate come back to bite them and they both momentarily lose the "loves" of their lives (which doesn't make even more sense as they all just recently met each other and Gwen and Cecily will only marry a man named, 'Earnest"). It is absurd comments and opinions like these that Wilde uses to better satirize the absurdity of the haughtiness of those in "high society".

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C) Like most farces, this was an enjoyable work in its hilarity and its simplicity. With a lack of need for character development, the entire play simply focuses on a hilarious situation with side-additions of wit. It was certainly a fun read in class ;), however, in terms of literary weight it simply can't compare to a full-blown novel such as A tale of Two Cities. Overall, i would give this book a 4/5 because although it was rather hilarious quick read, it didn't really lend as much literary weight as a novel. however, for 54 pages to convey at least some literary meaning makes this novel worth reading.

Oscar Wilde is just awesome like that.