Contextual Analysis Of The Importance Of Being Earnest English Essay

1037 words - 5 pages

The list of literary movements that have affected how a collection of artists interpret
their surroundings goes on; but how many principle values and attitudes actually
change between these periods? In examining historical time phases past, during the
context of a seemingly more advanced society, social norms that are questionable
are effortlessly detected and frowned upon. What is unique, however, is the
acknowledgement and critique of these flawed factors when they are occurring
concurrently with one’s life. One may look back at the progress society has made in
socio-political aspects, claiming that many must have recognised the flaws in their
society for them to change, however they would be overlooking the fact that these
changes have taken many years to come into effect—for example, the patriarchy has
only started to be dismantled after many thousands of years after being in force—
and ergo, an individual aware of their erroneous society is a rare occurrence. One
such man, a playwright who wrote throughout the aestheticism movement, is Oscar
Wilde. His recognition of the failings of the Victorian era aristocracy are conveyed
perfectly in his farce contemporaneous satire The Importance of Being Earnest, first
performed in 1895. An insight into Wilde’s commentary on the privileged few in his
time, is somehow, still oddly relevant to a modern Western audience, and the
realisation of this intensifies the intricacies of reading the text.
The upper class’ usage of marriage during the Victorian era contrast with the
original, religious meanings of the sacrament, and Wilde’s critique of this can be
seen by scrutinising the play under a philosophical reading lens. The playwright
exposes the character’s motives by placing them into specific situations, with the
audience becoming privy to how they manipulate religious conventions for their
personal gain. The characters in the play are most likely Anglican or another
Protestant denomination, seen when Lane comments “I have only been married
once”, suggesting that annulments are granted in his religion. Wilde also lived his life
as an Anglican, however he had a fascination with Catholicism. He wrote, in a letter,
“The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone—for respectable people, the
Anglican Church will do”. This suggests, according to Andrea Monda, an Italian
author with a degree in Religious Studies, that the promised land, giving Catholics
meaning to exist, is “not suitable for average people who want to live their faith
comfortably and predictably”. He implies that Protestant faith is based in triviality and
formality, leading into Wilde’s critique in their views of the sacraments. When
Algernon says “Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralizing as that?”, we can see
Wilde criticise the Protestant lack of having marriage an important, meaningful
sacrament. Marriage is, instead, seen as a business arrangement, seen when
Algernon proclaims “I thought you had come up for pleasure? ...I call that...

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