The Importance of Being Earnest

Ordinary People Create Drama: A Comparison of All My Sons and The Importance of Being Earnest 12th Grade

Traditionally, drama has been an outlet for the extraordinary; only fairly recently with more modernist plays have the focus been shifted onto more ordinary lives. Greek tragedy follows the fall of a noble protagonist; by comparison, domestic tragedy as in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons revolves around ordinary people who are tested by crisis. Meanwhile, comedy often centres around an ‘everyman’ character, or otherwise an extraordinary parody. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest takes the latter approach, and the characters that appear within it are bold and subversive. In Miller’s tragedy, the Kellers are presented in every regard as normal, whereas both the male and female characters in The Importance of Being Earnest are outlandish, abnormal. Each of these character moulds is ideal for the drama the playwrights wish to create, as shaped by the conventions of the tragic or comic genre.

In the opening stage directions of All My Sons, the Keller household is described in great detail to establish a sense of normality. The house is ‘two stories high’ and ‘nicely painted’, and there is garden furniture in the backyard, which creates a representative, unexemplary first impression of a typical American family. However, this...

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