Discuss The Importance of Being Earnest as a critique of Victorian society.
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Wilde's play is a "comedy of manners." It exaggerates the reliance on the superficial of Victorian society--if we behave well, we ARE good people, no matter what lies underneath. Wilde struggled with living a lie, so several of the characters have something to hide. The denouement of the story reveals the lies or subterfuge, throwing the superficial into disarray and revealing in "earnest" who these people really are.
The Importance of Being Earnestis a criticism of the idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, belief systems, lifestyles, and social expectations. What makes it "criticism" is that Wilde points out in a mocking, exaggerated yet quite accurate manner the ways in which the polite Victorian fashionable society conducted itself. Their behavior was quite appalling. Between the snobbishness, the elitism, the hypocrisy, the holier than thou attitudes, the living above their means, in summary, their entire demeanor towards life was quite comical. Wilde was just able to bring it out with his witticism and awesome style.
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