Essay – The Importance of Being Earnest – Topic #2
The people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde serves it’s purpose wholly. Although, amongst the witty remarks and ridiculous situations, there are times which indicate the deeper meaning within the author’s words. The characters whom are portrayed as shallow and ignorant indicates the true reflection of the Victorian Society at the time. The theme of sexism, lack of feelings for others, and marriage based on money and rank are exercised throughout the entirety of the play.
Generally, in the Victorian Era, women were treated drastically different as opposed to modern day. For instance, when Gwendolyn accepts a marriage proposal without her parent’s permission, her mother is livid and replies with “Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she should be allowed to arrange for herself.” (I.172) This is the ideal example of how women were not consulted with who they would marry and marriage was based on what the parents saw suitable, such as social status and rank. Men were also slightly condescending towards women in this time period as well. Namely, when Algernon is inquiring if Jack had revealed the truth to Gwendolyn, Jack replies in a patronizing manner “My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!”(I.236) Jack is insinuating that women are very fragile and that as men, it is their duty to use their discretion to protect them. This elucidates how men did not regard women with full equality.