You Are What You Eat: An Analysis Of Irony In The Importance Of Being Earnest

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Oscar Wilde is best known for his wit, intellectual commentary and irony, whether overt or subtle. In the case of his satirical play, The Importance of Being Earnest (hereinafter Earnest), Wilde uses his gift for puns and irony to create a very blatant ironic comedy. Some of the puns and ironic devices used are extremely obvious; in fact, the name in itself is a pun. Upon further examination, however, one will notice that the entire play is riddled with irony that goes much deeper than the obvious farce and satire that is presented. Of all the symbols and ironic devices Wilde uses, food is one of the most prominent. Food is often used throughout Earnest to symbolise other appetites and indulgences, but with an ironic twist. Where a good meal would represent a good friendship, Wilde twists to do just the opposite. It is a common literary theory that when one eats, it is to share ideas with another. In the simplest terms, if the meal goes well it is to say ‘I like you’, if the meal does not go well it is to say ‘I do not like you’, and if the meal does not take place as originally planned, it is to say ‘ I hate you.’ In Earnest, however, these conventions are not met. A meal goes awry between two best friends, Algernon and Jack and with ironic reversal once again, a meal takes place successfully between two enemies, Gwendolen and Cecily, and takes place again between to fighting friends, Algernon and Jack. Wilde’s unconventional use of food adds to the subtle ironies of the play, which ultimately add to the obvious puns and wit that make Earnest one of the great satires of the nineteenth century. A meal that does not take place, as previously stated, suggests that the two parties have a great dislike for each other; however, this is not the case with Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing. The first meal the audience sees opens the play. Two good

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