The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Masking Unpleasant Emotions Through Food 12th Grade

In Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest, satire is used to emphasize the triviality and absurdity of certain conventions within Victorian society. The play’s main characters epitomize Victorian high society; thus, the criticism that arises from Wilde’s exaggeration extends further than the play itself. Specifically, Wilde exaggerates the consumption of food, a seemingly normal non-event. However, Wilde presents such a typically mundane event as an emotionally moving experience. Each time food is introduced into a scene, a character is also feeling an emotion that is unconventional for the time.

During the 19th century, it was considered impolite for members of the upper levels of society to reveal conflicting and personal feelings. In public, any kind of overbearing emotion needed to be suppressed in order to maintain proper decorum. Responding to these societal rules, Wilde uses the Victorians' exaggeration of their food intake to represent the emotions that they are unable to show. By using food to mask and stifle unpleasant sentiments like lust, aggression, and stress, Wilde conveys the Victorian Era’s aversion towards public displays of such emotions.

Discussing one’s feelings of lust and sexual desire defied the...

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