The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners that is used to parody social aspects of a Victorian society. Wilde does this by incorporating farcical elements that would appear ludicrous to an audience and satirises Victorian social norms and values. Wilde also subverts the ideals of marriage by undermining the concept as a whole and at the same time he inverts traditional gender roles and class in society. Wilde has included serious and controversial subjects such as the influence of religion which implies Wilde’s comedy is not a game but a serious criticism of Victorian society. However, Wilde presents these ideas in a humorous, light-hearted manner by the use of farce and satire. For this reason, it can be argued that Earnest does reflect the view that ‘comedy is game played to throw reflections upon social life’.
Wilde inverts the gender roles in the Victorian society in order to show reflections upon social life, particularly with Lady Bracknell, who embodies the British Victorian aristocracy. It is through Lady Bracknell that the inversion of gender roles is highlighted as she is arguably the most dominant figure in the play obtaining the most authority over every other character. It is clear from Gwendolen’s and Lady Bracknell’s comments that Lord Bracknell, who remains absent in the play, appears to be passive in the female orientated household. Gwendolen remarks that her father is ‘entirely unknown’ outside their family circle, and reflects, ‘the home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man’ and speaks of a man’s ‘domestic duties’. This is a comic inversion of the stereotypical expectation in Victorian times that a woman’s role was in the home. Moreover, Lady Bracknell interviews Jack about his suitab…
…es the morality of Victorians by centring the comedy around marriage, which arguably should be a serious religious ceremony, yet Wilde portrays it as a trivial affair, suggesting that he views marriage, or the way people treated it, in a Victorian society as a joke. Also, Wilde uses Lady Bracknell’s haughty comments to create elements of a satire comedy that parodies the upper class society in a Victorian era. Wilde also uses inversions and subversions of gender roles in society to challenge the social order. Through this Wilde exposes the upper class and their morals concerning social matters, therefore it can be said that the purpose of Wilde’s comedy was to educate people of the Victorian society and question their social norms and values.Works Cited
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
Comic Devices in The Importance of Being Earnest