The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

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Discuss Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest as a comedy of manners.

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A comedy of manners is a form of drama that showcases the foibles and hypocrisy of upper-class characters. Oscar Wilde's comedies, especially The Importance of Being Earnest, fall into the category neatly. In such comedies, how one looks and presents oneself is more important than one's underlying essence or character. This thought is aptly expressed by Gwendolen when she says, "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing."

One obvious way that the play portrays this shallowness is in the attitude of the two women who want to marry a man named Ernest. A man's name is certainly one of the least telling things about him, yet both Gwendolen and Cecily are willing to reject the men they supposedly love when they find out they are not named Ernest. Similarly, Aunt Augusta displays ridiculous standards during her interviews of Jack and Cecily. When she interviews Jack, she praises Jack as a potential husband for her daughter when he says he smokes and knows nothing,...

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