The Importance of Being Earnest

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Graham Wolfe ENG122H5 S February 24th, 2010 The Institution of Marriage through the Prism of The Importance of Being Earnest: a Triumph of Extinguished Romance. Is Oscar Wilde’s play really about The Importance of Being Earnest or is it rather about the “the importance of being passionately celibate”? Truly, Wilde’s play is like a bottle of champagne nonchalantly popped open…effervescent and treacherously intoxicating. Why else à la fin would there be a happy trio of lovebirds formed? How could anyone in a clear state of mind desire marriage after being exposed to such a brilliantly devised sequence of bitter-sweet remarks on the institution of marriage? In essence, when the bubble fireworks are out, Wilde’s play reveals its thorns, and they are aimed directly at the institution of marriage. Despite the happy ending, The Importance of Being Earnest takes a perfectly satirical stance in regards to the institution of marriage. Oscar Wilde takes pleasure in deconstructing the pristine facade built around the concept of marriage by Victorian society, and he is fearless in attacking its conventions. Wilde’s play does not celebrate marriage as the ultimate alliance by love, instead preferring to expose its “unstylish” side stained by hypocrisy and shallowness. It’s quite clear that the institution of marriage is being lightheartedly ridiculed in The Importance of Being Earnest. The main characters in the play appear to treat marriage as something frivolous and are oblivious to the concept of mutual commitment. Cecily and Gwendolen only want to marry Algernon and Jack because they are convinced that their names are Ernest. As Gwendolen points out to Jack early in the play, “…My ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned
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