What is the social satire in The Importance of Being Earnest?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The social satire that permeates Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest consists on mocking the mannerisms, customs, and lifestyles of the aristocrats and those considered "upper class".

The settings of the play are Victorian London, and the English countryside. Both of these are known hangouts for the rich and the fashionable of the time. However, those who are rich and fashionable in England during this era are also hypocritical, classicist, and narcissistic people who used charity and church as a way to flaunt even more their marked social differences.

Lady Bracknell, Algernon, and Gwendolen represent the snobby Londoners who lead double lives, hide secrets, and conduct themselves poorly while hiding behind their fancy clothes and exaggerated manners of speech and behavior.

Jack and Cecily also represent the country side rich who also lead double lives and hide beneath their supposed country traditions. All characters, aim to demonstrate that everybody wears masks to hide who they really are, and the behaviors shown in the play clearly demonstrate it.

Therefore, Wilde exposes the low values of the higher classes by mocking them through characters that show how hypocritical and superficial high society can really be.

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