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'The Importance of Being Earnest' may be treated as a social document.Discuss.

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cutiechandrika | Student, Undergraduate

Posted December 7, 2009 at 1:36 PM via web

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'The Importance of Being Earnest' may be treated as a social document.Discuss.

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:06 PM (Answer #1)

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, the characters' actions satirize the notions of the rich who have nothing to do with their time and also make fun of Utilitarianism (the moral worth of an action is determined by its utility, by making people's lives better.)

During that time in history the revolution moved rural people, making them leave the countryside to live in cities. They were workers in the industries that made up the Industrial Revolution. Britian benefited from the changes but people suffered.

Writers and intellectuals and priests talked about the social problems and changing society. Novelists made literary masterpieces that reflected the poor during these times, like Elizabeth Barrett and Charles Dickens.

Society became reformed as a result of the public debates at this time in London. Some of the improvements were in hospitals, orphanages, prisons, workhouses, schools and factories. Especially child labor laws were enacted to counter child labor practices.

In this sense, yes the novel was a social treatise as were other books at the time.

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

Posted December 8, 2009 at 1:56 AM (Answer #2)

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It is a social document because the purpose of Wilde as a dramatist and as a social critic was to expose the weaknesess of the Victorian social system and the aristocracy, and through such exposure he would pin down the many ways in which the so-called polite society was nothing but a false and hypocritical system of nonsense rules and expectations that did not meet any purpose nor aimed for any goal in particular. He exposed indeed these deficiencies for example, the lack of interest of the upper classes to help the slum districts, the need for moving up the social ladder through marriage, the false aristocrats who live above their means and still look down on the rest of the world etc.

Wilde succeeded at making this play both an entertaining piece and a social commentary of the times.

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