The Importance Of Being Earnest

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Lindsay McMillan 1 ENGL 2313 Dr. Emily May 3, 2011 Comedic Elements in The Importance of Being Earnest Many satirical elements and hidden themes during the Victorian period are discovered in Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. Puns, class and gender roles, and epigrams are some of the traits used throughout the play that show relevance of characteristics during Victorian period. Wilde carefully examines the norms of gender, courtship, and class rankings that contribute to the overall norm of this era. One of the most important features of this satire is the frequent uses of puns. Being earnest is defined as being honest and respectable, which neither Algernon nor Jack possess. However, Jack’s fiancé Gwendolen is rather quick in forgiving him once his true identity was exposed. A more confusing pun is also inserted in the play. Lady Bracknell and Jack discuss where he was found in the railroad station. This joke is presented in stating that the “origin” is where Jack is found at where he can last retrace his steps, which happens to be the first point in a railroad station. Many of these puns that occur throughout the play especially deal with family matters point to Lady Bracknell’s pretentiousness along with the other characters to see if they possess integrity. These puns emphasize Oscar Wilde’s humor and mockery of the upper class in Victorian society. McMillan 2 Another important motif is the talk about death, especially in a joking manner. Algernon frequently talks about the death of his “friend” Bunbury which Lady Bracknell calls death a burden for everyone else. One of the most important parts of the play includes the talk of killing Jack Worthing’s imaginary brother. Death, based off the
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