What use does Wilde make of the contrast between the city and the country life and values in The Importance of Being Earnest?
This question needs an answer that describes the difference of city and country life and its values throughout the play. So, there is no specific reference to Acts 1 or 2. It is an essay question and requires at least 500-600 words, with examples from the play.
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The contrast in a work of literature between the simple, pure innocence of country life versus the sophisticated, worldly excitement of city life, certainly wasn't a theme invented by Oscar Wilde. As far back as Shakespeare's As You Like It (and probably farther), British authors have been making use of the contrast between the pastoral simplicity of the country life and those who live there and the worldliness of those who live the more fast-paced (corrupt?) city life. So, Wilde knew what his audience would expect of characters found in these two locales. And to some degree, he meets their expectations.
Cecily, for example, is being raised to become a proper lady in the country. It is here, it is hoped, that she will cultivate the fine character of the traditional British lady, without the exposure to the harder edges city life would bring. Cecily, however, turns out to be more than just a fading and innocent country flower. She stands up to her city counterpart, Gwendolyn, when she must fight for what she believes is her man against this supposed rival. There is a good essay topic here, in examining the ways in which Wilde plays into audience expectations about characters who live in the country versus those in the city and the moments in which he reverses these.
Jack, who straddles these two worlds ("my name is Earnest in town and Jack in the country"), is the character who has the most to resolve about his identity in the play. He doesn't know (until play's end) who his parents were or where he comes from, and he does much pretending about that -- hence, the personas Earnest and Jack. So, you could also create an essay that examines how Jack himself embodies this contrast between the two locales through creating the "brothers" Jack and Earnest.
I hope these suggestions help you get started. Good luck.
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