The Importance of Being Earnest

Bring out the use of wit & paradoxical statements in the Importance of Being Earnest.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners as it uses light hearted language to evoke laughter at the false values of the Victorian upper society.

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Answer: Oscar Wilde is an incredibly funny and witty writer. His humor in The Importance of Being Earnest relies on creating absurd situations and characters whose lack of insight causes them to respond to these situations in inappropriate ways.

Earnest is also a satire because it makes fun of its characters – most of whom are members of the aristocratic class. Think about how proud Lady Bracknell is, and how fond she is of scandal. When she arrives late at Algernon’s place, she explains that she was visiting Lady Harbury, who "looks quite twenty years younger" since "her poor husband’s death" (I.111). Wilde constantly exaggerates the upper class’s shallowness and frivolity to show the corrupt morals they provide as examples. When Lady Bracknell interrogates Jack, we learn that all she cares about is his money, his trendiness, and his family name.

Most of us recognize that death by illness isn’t a matter of conscious choice and would take pity on the dying Bunbury. Not Lady Bracknell. She’s more concerned with the propriety of her music arrangements. She’s frivolous, worrying about style over the life-and-death struggle of Bunbury. The entire play runs similarly – with characters responding to situations in ways that are inappropriate give the situation, either too serious or too flippant. Such exaggeration gives Earnest its distinctive brand of Wildean humor.

Keep an eye out, too, for Wilde’s patented epigrams – succinct, witty, paradoxical sayings. They are often general reflections on life, and can be lifted straight out of the text and used on your friends. For example: "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his" (I.228). Wilde’s ability to craft these sayings is what made him famous, and his true source of inspiration for the play. In a letter to an actor-producer friend with the scenario (hoping to get an advance, as he was in dire straits for money) Wilde admitted as much – "The real charm of the play, if it is to have charm, must be in the dialogue".

Wilde, through the skeptical Algernon, makes an immediate critique of marriage as "demoralising," and throughout the scene the best bon mots are reserved for mocking that most traditional romantic covenant. Wilde is the master of the epigram, a concise, typically witty or paradoxical saying. His skill lies not only in coining wholly new epigrams, but in subverting established ones. For instance "in married life, three is company and two is none" captures the monotony of monogamy by playing it against the commonplace "two is company, three's a crowd." >>> READ THE FULL ANSWER AT THE SOURCE LINK BELLOW >>