The Importance of Being Earnest and the Victorian Period
The Victorian Era was a time of social reform. Society was rediscovering novels in its many structures. Essentially the late Victorian era was the beginning of a cultural resurgence. Although the Upper Class society still had a stronghold on morals and social values, these were beginning to be replaced in many social circles by the end of the age when Oscar Wilde wrote his novel, The Importance of Being Earnest. The novel then became a controversial yet very popular play a few years later. The main source of comedy in Wilde’s play is the mockery of society in the Victorian era. Wilde used an idyllic set of characters and dual plots to prod fun at those who still demanded strictly governed social behavior. Even though the appearance of each scene appeared to be perfectly in keeping with the extreme social rules of the Victorian era, there was an intention to demonstrate the erroneous behavior of the upper class society in the Victorian time period.
The Importance of Being Earnest appears to be a traditional 19th century outlandish play. Several of the motifs in Oscar Wilde’s play are typical of the lifestyle set in the Victorian Era. Bogus identities, marriage in high society, overbearing mothers, and aristocratic lifestyles were common in the Victorian time period (Victorian Web). However, as Wilde’s characters portray these lifestyles it is only served as a façade. Wilde’s parody portrayed in his play works on dual levels.
The first level demonstrates the characters mindset of the Upper Class society. The main character, Jack Worthing, represents the conventional Victorian values that men of the period possessed. He desires others to believe he maintains beliefs such as obligation, principle, and morality. However, as the Victorian morals are too stringent, Worthing becomes a hypocrite, leading a parallel life through his alter ego named Ernest. Ernest is a double standard...