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Essay on 'The Importance of Being Earnest': How Does Wilde Poke Fun at the Upper-Class Lifestyle

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Wilde was actually looking to ridicule the rigid aristocratic lifestyle by observing their snob-ism through a tale of romantic webs and dual identities. Being an aristocrat himself, Wilde had other feelings as to what an aristocrat should really be: not superficial or materialistic, but more intelligent, well-educated, and passionate about true life morality, and ethics. Wilde had the right idea on how to entertain education, yet the play was considered comical as it conveyed farce at the culmination. In a time of industrialization where the entrepreneur thrived and the working class struggled in poverty and ill health, plays such as this were a much-needed distraction to alleviate disgruntlement.

The play is a static spectacle of what isn’t really being said, thus the language used was artificial but also perfectly controlled, enunciated, rehearsed, and elaborated through the use of puns, repartee, epigrams, inversions, and sardonic irony. It is an upper-class articulated and even exaggerated language.

Through Wilde’s use of satire, he uncovers society’s follies and vices of that time: men being dishonest and materialistic, fickle women, and snob-ism (Lady Bracknell). It’s a comedy of manners.

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As for Irony, Wilde displays his genius by defining one thing for its opposite in a vast number of ways. Here, Wilde purposely defines love and marriage as pure business, where in fact, marriage should always be initiated by genuine love between two people.

Clever wordplay (epigrams), themes like the weather, food, and health, where Wilde uncovers the utter inconsiderateness of aristocracy for the hard-working class’ poverty and ill health, make out the outstanding playwright that stood the test of times, being considered one of the top dramas even today. A careful analytical eye discovers that the work portrayed by Oscar Wilde here is more than a humoristic or even trivial play like he loved to call it; in reality, here we have another example of irony! Because the issues Wilde tried to clarify are not at all petty. And again, his brilliancy, being ahead of his time, was taken for granted, simply as another humoristic play designed to entertain the tired or the bored.

There are a number of key themes applied, crucial to the play, themes like the double lives aristocrats adopted to suit their convenience, signifying laziness, food theme revealing selfish greed, and marriage more like a business than representing true love. There is also a theme of religion, portrayed as feeble and monotone, almost insignificant. “My sermon on the meaning of the manna in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion, joyful, or, as in this case, distressing. [All sigh.]” (Chasuble, p35) Furthermore, the christening was considered more like a social tool rather than a sign of faith or spirituality. To extend further there is a theme on orphans, considered repugnant by the high social class, whereas according to the Holy Scriptures, orphans should have protection, considered precious in God’s eyes. The theme of the handbag where Jack has been miss-placed as a baby may have a slight reference to the religious origin story of Moses.

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Essay on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’: How Does Wilde Poke Fun at the Upper-Class Lifestyle. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
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Essay on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’: How Does Wilde Poke Fun at the Upper-Class Lifestyle. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
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