Study Guide

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest eText - eText

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What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Oscar Wilde [1854-1900] wrote in a variety of literary forms and genres, including poetry, short stories, plays, fairy tales, comedies, and literary criticism. Among his well-known works are The Picture of Dorian Gray [1891], Lady Windermere's Fan [1892], and The Importance of Being Earnest [1895]. The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde's comical play, written with satirical wit and sarcasm, has lasted through the years, showing many generations the beauty and ease of his writing ability. In referring to this play, Wilde stated: “It has as its philosophy…that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.”