Explore how Wilde presents reading and writing in The Important of Being Earnest. You must relate your discussion to relevant contextual factors.

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Miss Prism and Cecily discuss diaries and fiction in Act 2. Miss Prism thinks Cecily should not keep a diary because she can rely on her memory; however, Cecily explains that she "chronicles the things that have never happened" in her diary and that "Memory" is likely responsible for "nearly...

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Miss Prism and Cecily discuss diaries and fiction in Act 2. Miss Prism thinks Cecily should not keep a diary because she can rely on her memory; however, Cecily explains that she "chronicles the things that have never happened" in her diary and that "Memory" is likely responsible for "nearly all of the three-volume novels" available in the circulating library. She seems to impugn, or criticize, such three-volume novels—as many people did during this era—and Miss Prism admonishes her not to denigrate the form because she, herself, wrote such a novel when she was younger. Cecily admits that novels that end happily depress her (a ridiculous and paradoxical response), and Miss Prism explains that

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.

In other words, Miss Prism seems to believe that people only get their just desserts in fiction; it is a place for her to live out the fantasy of a happy ending for those who deserve it (like, I imagine, herself). Fiction is not, then, a place to learn to empathize or understand others unlike oneself or to learn something about the human condition; for Miss Prism, and, perhaps for the average reader, it is just a fantasy world. Wilde certainly does not seem to present typical readers or writers as very discerning or sage.

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