The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In what ways is Oscar Wilde mocking Victorian society in his drama The Importance of Being Earnest?

Expert Answers info

Gracie O'Hara eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write6,794 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Oscar Wilde lived during the Victorian period (i.e., the reign of Queen Victoria, which lasted from from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901). It is important here to distinguish between the Victorian period and the rather unfortunate use of the term "Victorian" as standing in for a certain type of sexual mores which differ from those of the twenty-first century. As satirical writer, Wilde made fun of what for him was contemporary society, something most satirical writers do.

One of the main targets of Wilde's satire was hypocrisy. He himself was a gay man who was jailed for a homosexual relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. As a gay man who married to conform to social conventions, he was very aware of how laws regulating relationships led to certain forms of hypocrisy. He was opposed to various forms of double standards and often portrayed characters whose veneer of respectability covered morally dubious behavior.

Wilde's main audience was the upper-middle and upper classes,...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 971 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,495 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,648 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

check Approved by eNotes Editorial