The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

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How does Oscar Wilde satirize his audience in The Importance of Being Earnest, and what may he be trying to evoke from the audience?

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Wilde satirizes the hypocrisy of his Victorian audience. There were such strict moral codes at the time, codes to which members of the upper class certainly purported to live by, and yet so many people continued to do immoral things; they just kept those behaviors hidden. Like Jack Worthing, they appeared to all the world like good, upstanding citizens but found creative ways to hide their more depraved tendencies. Jack invents a brother, Ernest, who lives a life of dissipation; when Jack goes to London, away from his home and his impressionable young ward, he can pretend to be Ernest so that he does not sully his own good name. As Ernest, he can go places and see people and do things that he would never do as Jack. Then, he can return to his home, his reputation as a moral man still intact, and no one is the wiser. He claims that strong morals, especially because he has a ward, are so important, and yet he lies in order to be able to exhibit a lack of morals when he so chooses....

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