Satire is defined to be the use of humor to ridicule faults and vices. The Importance of Being Earnest is set in the late Victorian Era during a social reform. The class system was defined by the animosity between classes, the upper class treating the lower class with disdain and disgust. The upper class was rigidly controlled by knowing what to eat, wear, and how to behave. The Importance of Being Earnest satirizes the class system, etiquette and disposition that was expected from Victorians. Wilde uses irony, humor and characters not only to call attention to the absurdity of the Victorian behavior but also to highlight the ironic humor in the characters flaws that reflect the Victorians who were watching it.
The Importance of Being Earnest seems to be a criticism of society. The play is a light-hearted comedy but also a social satire utilizing the chance to criticize social issues. The use of dramatic irony reveals an inconsistency between the characters words and the truth, suggesting that society is hypocritical. Dramatic irony operates in a way where the audience has a privileged position with knowledge that is not available to the characters. The Importance of Being Earnest reflects the audience it was written for. From the entrance of “Mr. Earnest Worthing,” there are constant criticisms between Jack and Algernon. The criticism presents an irony; Jack believes it is “very vulgar,” for Algernon to pretend to be someone he is not. This is ironic as Jack is not self-critical enough to be aware that by being “Earnest in town and Jack in the country,” he himself is presenting a “false impression” and behaving like a hypocrite. The dramatic irony of this is that the laughter incurred from this irony is ironic in itself.