Analysis of Tone of Oscar Wilde’s Critique in the 'Importance of Being Earnest'

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This play is distinctively known for its comedic elements. One of the main elements that compose this text is the comedy of manners. This is basically deriding the upper-class society which could be interpreted as a mockery of the way heterosexual people have vilified homosexuals and treated them as an abomination. If we take into account the time period this was published, there weren’t many ways in which he could fight back against the oppression and therefore, this was his way of coping with life. Through humorous mockery, he is able to escape his sadness and at the same time, scuff society as a way to reciprocate for the way he was treated.

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The use of irony throughout the play evidently is what gives this text its comedic value. There are a few types of the irony present, the first being sardonic irony, which comes down to the mocking of society as a whole. This can be reflected in the character Jack. At one point he tells Algernon that “the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl.” The reason this is ironic can be interpreted in two ways: first, he is playing with the title of the play which states the importance of honesty, while men in society, as an act of superiority, prefer not to tell the truth, while once again, making fun of the upper-class. Second, this could be understood as the sadness behind humor, where Wilde, being a homosexual man during a time period where it was illegal, tells through his characters that he has to hide who he is, because “the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a girl.” This is his way to mask his insecurities with a humorous comment.

In addition to that, we can see how the character Lady Blacknell is another reflection of his feelings when she states that she is not “in favor of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage.” This is interesting because, to people watching this, it will be received as a funny comment, whereas someone who is aware of his background might understand that in fact, he is not allowed to show himself to others. At the time, you were supposed to be married at a young age, and if he were to know a woman, a “long engagement” would mean he might expose. Although he was out, it was never confirmed until he was discovered having a relationship with another man through letters, which is the reason he was arrested. This being said, marriage for him would be solely for convenience and not love, which would explain his discomfort and anguish reflected upon his work.

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Analysis of Tone of Oscar Wilde’s Critique in the ‘Importance of Being Earnest’. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“Analysis of Tone of Oscar Wilde’s Critique in the ‘Importance of Being Earnest’.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Analysis of Tone of Oscar Wilde’s Critique in the ‘Importance of Being Earnest’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Analysis of Tone of Oscar Wilde’s Critique in the ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from:

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