The Importance of Being Earnest Significant Allusions
by Oscar Wilde

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Significant Allusions

Allusions to Places 

  • Scotland Yard: the central location of London’s Metropolitan Police Service 
  • Willis’s: a popular restaurant among the leisured classes in the Victorian era 
  • Grosvenor Square: a very affluent area in the Mayfair District of London 
  • Belgrave Square: a fashionable address in London 
  • The Empire: a famous music hall 

Allusions to Religion 

  • Primitive Church refers to the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, whose priests remained celibate. 
  • Manna in the Wilderness refers to the biblical Book of Exodus, in which God gives the Israelites sustenance when the food they brought from Egypt ran out. Here, Wilde is making fun of an all-purpose sermon, suitable for any occasion. 
  • Anabaptists refers to a religious group that believes the only form of baptism should be complete immersion of the body in water. 

Allusions to Myth 

  • Gorgon refers to one of three mythical monsters, of whom Medusa is best known, whose hair is made of living snakes and whose gaze, when met, turns mortals into stone. 
  • “Egeria and her pupil” refers to Egeria, a nymph, who gives wise laws to Numa Pompilius of Rome that are used for the vestal virgins. 

Allusions to the Economy/Money 

  • “The purple of commerce” refers to aristocratic, or inherited money. 
  • “Fall of the Rupee”: Rupees were the currency of Britain’s colony in India. At the time of Wilde’s writing of The Importance of Being Earnest, rupees had been falling in value for several decades. 
  • “Agricultural depression”: This is a play on the word “depression,” as Gwendolen has said that the country bores her to death. There is also an economic meaning: farmland was giving way to grazing land for cattle. 
  • “The Funds” refers to government stocks that give a low yield of interest but are conservative and considered safe. 
  • “Mercenary marriages”: The only people who married very young were the children of the aristocracy, whose marriages were arranged for dynastic purposes. 

Allusion to Politics 

  • Liberal Unionist: Jack places himself safely in the middle of the political spectrum by identifying as a Liberal Unionist. Liberal Unionists were not quite Tories (conservative), as Lady Bracknell indicates, but they had voted against the controversial movement for Irish Home Rule. 

Allusions to the Arts 

  • “The corrupt French drama” refers to the plays of Eugene Scribe, whose plots often contained adultery and other scandalous themes, but always ended with punishment for the transgressors. 
  • “Wagnerian manner”: Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was a famous German composer best known for his “Ring Cycle” of operas, which featured sweeping cords and dramatic singing, here mocked for their thunderous Germanic style. 
  • “ . . . Three-volume novels that Mudie sends us”: Many of the best-selling novels of late Victorian England were long, sensational stories, often written by women and printed in installments in weekly periodicals before being sold as novels. Mudie was a private chain of lending libraries that...

(The entire section is 744 words.)