The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest book cover
Start Your Free Trial

"Although literary critics have tended to praise uniqueness in literary characterizations, many authors have employed the stereotyped character successfully." Considering The Importance of Being Earnest, how do the conventional or stereotyped characters function to achieve the author's purpose? 

Expert Answers info

Ester Baumgartner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)


calendarEducator since 2016

write775 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

It is sometimes true that a reliance on stock characters may be seen by some critics as a lesser form of art; however, comedy and satire often do employ stock characters as part of the author's purpose. In the case of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, the characters are not exactly stock characters, but the way the characters mirror one another, each lacking originality in their own right, certainly helps Wilde critique the behaviors and beliefs of the Victorian upper class.

The protagonist , Jack, is a bit unusual in the sense that he is apparently an orphan but was adopted by a wealthy man and thus permitted to live a life of luxury. Once his guardian dies, though, Jack must care for the man's granddaughter Cecily, who is now his ward. Partly as a way to escape his responsibilities at his country estate, Jack goes by the name Ernest in London, where he is friends with another excessively wealthy man, Algernon. Like Jack, Algy is not exactly cut out for the strict Victorian...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 698 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write6,971 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ask a Question