How does Oscar Wilde produce humor in The Importance of Being Earnest?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde produces humor through farce and satire.

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While Oscar Wilde's witty dialogue is no doubt a chief comedic delight, The Importance of Being Earnest also utilizes elements of farce and the comedy of manners style to mine humor out of its story. A farce is typically a comedic plot that focuses on outrageous situations often involving mistaken identity and exaggerated characters. A comedy of manners mocks the behavior of a class of people, usually the upper classes and the wealthy in general.

Use of farce in The Importance of Being Earnest manifests in Jack and Algernon's use of alter egos depending upon what social circle they are among. Their use of these alternative identities causes much confusion and trouble within the play.

As a comedy of manners, the play mocks the behavior of the upper class, particularly in regards to prizing manners and custom over all else. Lady Bracknell is the prime target for such mockery, obsessing over trivial details and acting in outright oblivious rudeness for the purpose of proper social cues. Algernon...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on May 15, 2020