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How is satire evident in The Importance of Being Earnest?

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bphill | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 11, 2009 at 3:49 AM via web

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How is satire evident in The Importance of Being Earnest?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:52 AM (Answer #1)

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It is mostly evident in the manner in which every Victorian "polite society" value and members of such highly-idolized group are mocked by being portrayed at their most exhuberant, excessive, mindless, and unintelligent.

The topic of marriage is mocked by the money-hungry ways Lady Bracknell, and the midnless dreams of Gwendolyn and Cecily.

Money is mocked through Algy's extravagance and lack of funds, hence, putting him as a person who lives way above his means.

Truth, honesty,civility and sincerity are mocked all over the play in the two-timing characters of Jack and Algy.

In all, Earnest tells us from the title to the end that this play is indeed a satire.

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:28 AM (Answer #2)

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To me, the most obvious evidence of satire is that there is no one named Earnest.  There is no Earnest, he is really just the alter ego of John Worthing.  He uses the name when he is in London so that his family name is not connected with anything that he does while in town.

The importance of being Earnest is being a liar.  The idea that Gwendolyn can love someone named Earnest, when there is no one with this name who exists is ridiculous.

"Algernon's cousin, with whom Jack—as Earnest—is in love and to whom he proposes marriage. She accepts, believing him to be Algy's friend Earnest. As she explains to Jack, her "ideal has always been to love someone of the name Earnest."

The name of Earnest is bandied about by characters in this story as a shield to protect liars and lies.  It is interesting that the word earnest, according to the dictionary means:

  1. "serious and intense; not joking or playful; zealous and sincere not petty or trivial; important"

"Earnest" is the exact opposite of this definition, therein lies the irony, opposite of what is expected.

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