Illustration of Jack Worthing in a top hat and formal attire, and a concerned expression on his face

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

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In the play The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, how does the writer use satire to convey a message? 

I need examples of part of the story where the writer uses satire to get a point across.

Expert Answers

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The definition of satire is closely related to that of another literary device called irony; and sometimes those two cross paths. But satire is when an institution, organization or person is criticized in a sarcastic manner (which is sometimes unexpected and therefore ironic). If we could personify satire it would be the character of Algernon, or Algy. His whole character is sarcastic and critical of everyone and everything that turns out to be quite hilarious. He makes fun of Jack's goal to get married. In Act I, Algy puts down Jack's intent to propose because he said life isn't as exciting after the lady accepts. After Jack's rebuttal, Algy says that divorce was made in heaven! This is a perfect example of satire by poking fun at the institution of marriage along with a quick jab at religion. But the ultimate prank that puts Algy's sarcasm to work is when he plays the role of Jack's made-up brother Earnest. Only, it ironically backfires and Algy himself falls in love with Cecily in the process and proposes! Classic satire and irony at its best!

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