The Importance of Being Earnest

Trollope's and Wilde's Depictions of Victorian Society

Through the scope of a satirical lens, both Anthony Trollope’s novel Barchester Towers and Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest take turns examining the carefully structured norms of courtship and marriage in Victorian England. Marital pursuits abound between many of their major characters, and the relations between men and women essentially evolve into a type of business enterprise, where both parties are interested in what the other can bring to the table. The importance of courtship during this period emphasizes the class structure of Victorian England, because marriage evolves into a useful, sometimes even necessary tool that both men and women can utilize in order to maintain a respectable social status.

Marriage in the Victorian era is intimately linked with social class in these works of literature. In the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest, the character Algernon makes comments to his servant, Lane, that lead to a short discussion of marriage. Algernon, having no experience with marriage himself, remarks, “Is marriage so demoralizing as that?” after being told that married households only drink low-rate champagne, something he finds appalling (p. 1699). Lane offers his own advice on marriage, but...

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