The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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Comedy “tends to endorse the values of society.” Write an essay in which you explore the ways in which this claim does and does not hold true for The Importance of Being Earnest. What does the play suggest about the values of Victorian society? Which of those values does the play endorse, and which does it subvert or undermine (or simply poke fun at)? How might the very fact that Wilde’s play is a comedy subvert traditional Victorian values (not least the valorization of “earnestness” itself)?

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The Importance of Being Earnest is generally defined as a "comedy of manners," which is a satire that pokes fun at and critiques the values and mannerisms of the upper class. As such, Oscar Wilde certainly makes his upper-class characters look ridiculous and absurd throughout the play. They appear vain, selfish, and ignorant as they attempt to navigate the intricacies of Victorian courtship rituals. On the other hand, I can understand the argument that comedy upholds the value of its society; ultimately, the characters are happy in the end and don't seem to learn much. In other words, their vain, selfish, and ignorant behavior is rewarded, even...

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