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

1 Answer | Add Yours

tinicraw's profile pic

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

Posted on

A comedy of manners must be set within a first-world society where money, social standing, and manners are required to be taught and executed at every turn. Within such a setting, satire usually emerges as a literary device of choice to poke fun at those who exist in such a realistic setting. As for Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," the main characters are wealthy English citizens who feel they must lie in order to have fun, marry men with specific names in order to find good fortune, and follow the rules of society in order to live an abundant life. The manners referee for the play is Aunt Augusta who maintains the standards of society by forcing her daughter and nephew to marry only those who will either increase their social status, financial status, or both. Aunt Augusta uses the social rules of courtship in order to manipulate the personal lives of said family and to show forth her authority and control over them. Ironically, she is later trapped by her own game when she wants her nephew to marry Jack's ward Cecily who has lots of money and Jack prohibits it. It is at that moment that the tables of social rules are turned on Augusta and she is forced to become the object of her own game. Other issues that come up for the characters in such plays (and that are also mocked, generally) are: marriage, indebtedness, wealth, secret relationships and lying to manipulate others to get what is desired.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,951 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question