What is Wilde trying to say about marriage and why might he be saying this in The Importance of Being Earnest?
Oscar Wilde's take on marriage is not at all Romantic, but rather caustic and cynical. His famous maxim goes--"Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence." This is a very complicated statement. On the one hand, marriage is thought of as an irrational decision, but at the same time, it is still a victory of imagination, nonetheless. Wilde's satirical attitude to marriage has generic connotations of Manners Comedy, a form that he was refashioning for himself in his plays. Another more complex way of looking at it would be relating it to Oscar Wilde's sexual orientation. Marriage as may have realized was only a hetero-normative institution.
The Importance of being Earnest presents to us a spectacle of love as a pack of lies, an egotistical extension of self-love. It is this mock-romance that leads on to such a vision of marriages being made in hell or on earth but certainly not in heaven. The inconsequential category of the name dominates the prospects of marriage throughout as a trivializing critique of the choice. All importance is being Ernest; there is no importance on true love. As soon as the garb is unmade and the real identities of Algernon and Jack surface, the conveniently shifty nature of love is revealed.