The Importance of Being Earnest Themes | Issues Covered by O. Wilde
The main purpose of Oscar Wilde was to satirize the upper-class society but it is not the only subject matter of this play. He has presented many other themes in “Importance of Being Earnest”. This play,
Themes of “Importance of Being Earnest”:
- Satire on the upper Classes:
- The triviality of Marriage:
- Victorian Manners:
- Importance of Wealth:
- Life of Leisure:
Satire on the Upper Class:
The dramatist targetted Upper Victorian Class the most. He talks about the follies of his neighbors. He has presented a society, which has lost its values. Three major characters of this play belong to upper middle class. At the end of the play, the audience observes an increase in quantity. It is revealed to the audience that Jack also belongs to the same Class. Lady Bracknell, Algernon, and Gwendoline are the remaining characters. Lady Bracknell’s character is the most important in this regard. She is a typical lady of Victorian society. She focuses on his personal benefits. Apparently, she is a sober and respectable lady but deep down audience knows that she is foolish, arrogant and class conscious. Through Algernon, the dramatist adds more satire in the play while showing his immature attitude towards his responsibilities. Jack and Gwendoline do the same.
Hence, the satire on upper class is one of the clear themes of “The Importance of Being Earnest”.
The triviality of Marriage:
From the very beginning of the play, we realize that marriage has no importance in society. Lady Bracknell has a list of wealthy persons; she is going to interview them, through which she will choose a life partner for Gwendoline. Thus, marriage has been presented as a contract instead of a serious love relationship. Gwendoline and Cecily want to marry a person whose name is “Earnest”. They found charm and music in that name. Algernon and Jack want to live bachelor life. They do not support marriage. Similarly, numbers of dialogues are there in the play, in which marriage is criticized. Oscar Wilde instead of focusing on the importance of marriage has focused on its the unimportance in order to show the thinking of Society. In short, “The Triviality of Marriage” is one of the most important themes of “Importance of Being Earnest”.
Oscar Wilde describes Victorian manners to aware the people about their absurdities. Lady Bracknell presents the usual old ladies of the upper class. Algernon presents young bachelors. Gwendoline and Cecily are representatives of young ladies. We witness manner and rules of Victorian class in the whole play. In that society: old ladies want money; young men want to remain a bachelor life and want to enjoy life without doing any work; Gwendoline and Cicely are fashion conscious ladies. Similarly, Miss Prism forgets Jack at the railway station. It is definitely foolishness to replace a baby with the novel. Through all these characters, Oscar Wilde spreads light on the lifestyle of these people. This play does not depict both sides of Victorian society; rather, it shows us only the negative side. Perhaps the dramatist wants to say that positivity does not exist in this society.
Henceforth, the Victorian manner is also included in major themes of “The Importance of Being Earnest”.
Importance of Wealth:
Wealth, indeed, has its own importance. Lady Bracknell wants a wealthy son-in-law. Proud of class and wealth is her major characteristic. She wants Gwendoline to be the same. Algernon wants money to survive. He although does not care about his bill yet he wants money to pay them. Jack is living a prosperous life because he has wealth. He is enjoying life while creating an imaginary person “Earnest” and does not care about earning money. Lady Bracknell first rejects Jack but subsequently accepts him as the husband of Gwendoline just after knowing that he is in possession of a good fortune. Thereby, in one way or the other, it is shown that wealth has much importance in one’s life. Undoubtedly, “Importance of Wealth” comes at fourth in the list of themes of “Importance of Being Earnest”.
“Life of Leisure” and “Luxurious Life”: Last but Major Themes of Importance of Being Earnest:
Jack does not do anything to live. Algernon is in debt but does not care about it. He is a bachelor and enjoying luxuries of life. He wants money but does not want to work. We rarely find any character in this play, who works for a living. Every single person in this play is free even then we cannot say him jobless. It is because no one wants to work. Another minor character is important in this context i.e. “Chausable”. He is a religious person but he instead of doing his duties flirt with Miss Prism. It seems that the Victorian class wants a life of leisure. They want themselves respected but without doing anything good. Therefore, the life of luxury and life of leisure and are obvious themes of “The Importance of Being Earnest”.
To conclude, Oscar Wilde has focused on reality. He has presented these themes in “The Importance of Being Earnest” because he wanted to reform his society. Oscar Wilde wants them to do something good for the people. He wants morality in society. Algernon and Jack are living double lives. The idea behind it is to protect their apparent respect. Apparently, they are good but in reality, they are wicked. Hence, the difference between appearance and reality is also in the list of themes of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. In addition to it, “absurdity”, “greed”, “snobbery” and “proud” are also some relevant themes of “The Importance of Being Earnest”.