How does Oscar Wilde the element of comedy in the novel?about comedy of manners

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oscar Wilde was an anachronism; he lived in a time and culture of social deportment.  Through his use of satire, he showed the shortcomings of the prim Victorian lifestyle's limitations on the individual's freedoms.

Here are his major themes:

Morals and Morality: he shows--by extremes--how the moral are immoral and morality is a construct of social conventions and prejudices.

Love and Passion: he illustrates that the Victorian concept of love is devoid of, well, love and, more importantly, passion.  Marriages were arranged according to socio-economics instead of feelings.

Culture Clash: he shows the division between city and country; American and European; men and women; civilized and uncivilized through irony and satire.

Language and Meaning: he uses signs, names, symbols that illustrate the societies' importance on things instead of people.

Freedom: he advocates freedom by showing just its opposite: people trapped in clothes, marriages, social conventions.

Here are his major comedic conventions:

Romantic comedy: groups of lovers swapping, always in and out and then back in love; boy meets girl--boy loses girl--boy gets girl back

Comedy of Manners: uses many archetypes of social classes: "fools, fops, conniving servants, and jealous husbands" etc...

Low vs. High Comedy: low comedy is farce (gags, jokes, slapstick, physical comedy); high comedy is verbal satire, parody, battle of the sexes.  Wilde is known for his cutting one-liners, or epigrams and aphorisms.

Read the study guide:
The Importance of Being Earnest

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