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The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

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Published by: QASMTSeniors11 on Sep 07, 2011
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11/16/2012

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1
Introduction and Legend
“Lady Bracknell; We live in an age of surfaces” 
-
arguably THE most important quote
Motifs
These quotes have been divided by heading into the various motifs that are found in Oscar Wilde’s
The Importance of Being Earnest 
 
 –
there are other motifs throughout this (e.g. death, life, themorality in more depth) however the ones presented here are the most common and also the best
ones to use in comparison with the other ‘groups of works’ . A comment has been given with each
-keeping in mind that these are simply MY interpretations and they are open to others.
Literary Devices
The different literary devices seen here will defined here
 –
all the literary devices seen in thesequotes are defined; only the author/genre specific literary devices will be looked at as any others caneasily be picked out.
The representation of certain ideas, groups of people etc with objects or characters
 
Stimulates 
 
ideas, associations, and extra information in the reader's mind with only a word or two (i.e allusion means reference to a person, place, time or any piece of information)
Irony 
 
that is inherent in speeches or a situation of a drama and is understood by theaudience but not grasped by the characters in the play 
 
 A
 
brief, clever, and usually memorable statement.
 Farce: 
 Acomedy which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations.
 
 A work created to mock, comment on, or trivialize an original work,
 
Pun: 
 A form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words.
 
 Analyses social structures which are seen as flawed.
 
Biblical Allusions:
References to the bible
 
 
 A literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn,derision, or ridicule.
 A literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up
 
to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
 
Th
ese dramatic devices can also be seen in the importance of being earnest but I personally couldn’t
find quite easy quotes for them
 –
for example burlesque could most easily be presented as evidencethrough paraphrasing as can action, physical humour, timing and themes as they all are theaccumulation of many things and are really situations that need to be described. They are all alsohyperlinks to miss bullocks classes detailed descriptions so if they link is still there and you haveElearn access it should take you to a more detailed description of each of them with examples of quotes.Cliche,Mood,Action,Burlesque,Physical humour,Stage Directions,Timing,Tone,Gothic Themes
 
2
The Importance of Being Earnest (Quotes)
Marriage
“ 
 Algernon
 ; Oh! There is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces
are made in Heaven” (Act 1,
 page 4)
“ 
 Algernon
 ; (…) The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly 
scandalous. It looks so bad.
 
It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.”(Act 1, page
 _)
“Algernon
 ;
You don’t seem to realise,
that in married life three is company and two is none
.” (Act 1,
 page 9)
“ 
Lady Bracknell 
 ;
I hadn’t been there
since
her poor husband’s death. I never saw a woman soaltered; she looks quite twenty years younger”. (Act 1, page 11)
“Miss Prism
 ; No married man is ever attractive
 
except 
to his wife.” (Act 2, page 33)
“Lady Bracknell 
. To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the
opportunity of finding out each other’s character 
before marriage, which I thi 
nk is never advisable.” 
(Act 3, page 64)
Morality
“ 
Miss Prism;
(…) I am not in favour 
 
of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at 
a moment’s notice. As a man sows so let him reap
 
”(Act 2, page 27)
Food
“ 
 Algernon;
I hate people who are not serious about 
 
meals. It is so shallow of them
” 
.
(Act 1, page 10)
“ 
 Algernon
 ; When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am inreally great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.
(Act 2, page _)
“ 
 Algernon;
I
haven’t 
quite finished my tea yet! and there is still one muffin left 
.” 
(Act 2, page _)
 
 
Comment [H1]:
This is an inversion because thecommon phase is in fact marriage is made inheaven.
 –
 
this also gives insight into Wilde’s view
on marriage as being a form of entrapment.
Comment [H2]:
Here of course satire andinversion is used
 –
inversion in the sense that it isu
sually the women flirting with people who AREN’T
their husbands that is scandalous. Here one readingis that Oscar Wilde is making light of societiescondemnation of love in a marriage and the factthat society pushes hostility or mutual indifferencein a marriage.
Comment [H3]:
Very clear inversion as the
phrase is ‘don’t air your dirty laundry’
Comment [H4]:
Again commenting on thenature of marriage in that it is not a relationshipbetween two people. I also think Wilde is making atwofold comment
 –
on in relation to infidelity andmistresses/kept man and another in relation to theinclusion of the family in a marriage in that amarriage includes a man a woman and society.
Comment [H5]:
Here Wilde is commenting onthe tiresome and ageing nature of marriage.
Comment [H6]:
Here Miss prism is acting as the
voice of ‘reason’ and she is the picture of morality in
that she lives by what she believes is appropriate.Wilde often uses her in the play to make light of thismorality and this prudery in that she is in fact aspinster, who for all her adherence to the laws of 
society has yet to ‘get’ a husband –
which was thesole purpose for women in those times. Also Wildeexaggerates her prudery to again make light of thisaspect of Victorian Society and their narrow mindedview on marriage.
Comment [H7]:
Here Oscar Wilde is using ladyBracknell as a representation of Victorian society asa whole and presenting his opinion on the nature of Victorian marriages in that they are largelyimpersonal and simply business arrangements thatoccur with the family. In that he conveys the ideathat any getting to know of your spouse to be wouldresult in a terminated engagement, which lends tothe idea that no true feeling is felt between thesetwo people.
Comment [H8]:
She is not into the modernmania of forgiveness is her piece of advice as she
acts as the ‘voice of reason’, Wilde therefore making
an ironic comment about the nature of religion inthat forgiveness is preached but it is only put intopractice with the season (modern mania) b
Comment [H9]:
Here of course the inversion inthat meals are a relatively tri vial thing however
Comment [H10]:
This is of coursepredominantly used for humor in that it wouldamuse the audience that when he is being asked toleave Algernon uses food as his excuse, howeverthere is also the innuendo that comes with foodthroughout this play, muffins of course representinga part of female anatomy.
 
3
Seriousness vs. Triviality
“ 
 Algernon
 ; Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate people who are not serious about meals. It isso shallow of them
”.
(Act 1, page 10)
 Jack 
 ;
Oh, that’s nonsense, Algy. You never talk anything but nonsense.” 
 
“Algernon
 ;
Nobody ever does.” 
 
(Act 1,
 
page _)
“Algern
on
 ; Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. Ihappen to be serious about 
Bunburying.”(Act 2, page 53)
 
“Jack 
 ;
I say it’s perfectly 
heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
” 
(Act 2, page _)
Manners/Upper Class
“ 
 Jack 
 ; (...) When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other  people. It is excessively boring.
” (Act 1, page 3)
 
“Lady Bracknell 
 ; However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what areally 
 
affectionate mother requires. Do you
smoke?” 
(Act 1, page _)
“ 
Lady Bracknell 
. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. Thereare far too many idle men in
 
London
as it is.” 
(Act 1, page 16)
Jack
.
My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl.
What 
 
extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!(page 20)
“ 
Cecily 
 ; And of course a man who is much talked about is always very attractive. One feels theremust be something in him, after all. I daresay it was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, Ernest.
 
(Act 2, page 41)
“Cecily 
. It would hardly have been a
 
really 
serious engagement if it hadn’t been broken off at least once. But I forgave you before the week was out.” 
 
(Act 2, page 42)
 
“Cecily 
 ; There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest 
.” 
(Act 2, 43)
“Gwendolen
 ;I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social sphereshave been widely different 
.” 
(Act 2, page 48)
“ 
 Algernon
 ;
It is very vulgar to talk about one’s
 
business. Only people like stock-brokers do that, and 
then merely at dinner parties.” 
(Act 2, page 53)
 
“ 
 Algernon
 ; Yes, but I have not been christened for years.
” 
(Act 2, page 54)
“ 
Lady Bracknell 
 ;
(…) the number of engagements that go on seems to me considerably ab
ove the
 
 proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.
” 
(Act 3, page _)
 
Comment [H11]:
Here Wilde is conveying hismotif of being serious about trivial issues and trivialabout serious ones
 –
which of course is linked to hisview of the unnecessary seriousness of the upperclass, which of course is also linked to the idea of the humour that is seen throughout this play.
Comment [H12]:
Of course the innuendo
Comment [H13]:
Here presenting the idea thatthe life of the aristocrat is excessively boring andalso menial
Comment [H14]:
Lady Bracknell is the furthestpossibl
e thing from an ‘affectionate mother’
because an affectionate mother would not carewhether he smoked or not (as Gwendolen herself smoked) and whether that was socially acceptable,
moreover she wouldn’t care about his ‘origin’
because if he is wealthy enough to take care of herdaughter then theoretically that should be enoughas Gwendolen loves him.
Comment [H15]:
Here Oscar Wilde is making acomment about the nature of London society andthe fact that the upper class have nothing to do as
they don’t have to work so need to find ‘pastimes’
in order to be socially acceptable.
Comment [H16]:
Here he is commenting on thenature of manners and what one should and
shouldn’t say and all the unsaid rules and
regulations of society that Oscar Wilde depicts astrivial but that are taken so seriously. He is also
commenting on the way the ‘Earnest’ jack supposes
to treat a woman, with dishonesty/.
Comment [H17]:
Again talking about theshallow nature of the upper class in that they areonly really looking at things on face value with nodepth and falling in love with what people are
‘saying’ about another person –
which is essentiallywhat society is. (what people say) h
Comment [H18]:
Again the same as the above
 –
 
it’s about the fact that things are done in the
expected way
Comment [H19]:
Again conveying the shallownature of the upper class
Comment [H20]:
Here not only is it a slightingcomment on Cecily it also highlights some of the keyaspects of the aristocracy in that Wlide ishighlighting that they in fact do no labour.
Comment [H21]:
Again commenting on theridiculousness of manners and they level of seriousness which they are given
 –
and the trivialityin that.
Comment [H22]:
Here commenting on thefashionable nature of society in that things comeinto fashion and leave fashion and nothing is really
‘sacred’ except that –
here Algernon displays this bysimply treating christening as if he has not had ahaircut in a ghastly length of time.
Comment [H23]:
Here the inversion highlightsone of the aspects of aristoractic society in thatstatistics are intended to reflect what happens insociety yet with this class it is the statistics thatgovern the people's choices - highlighting theludicrous nature of upper class society. Specifcallythe nature of 'what is expected - whcih comes undermanners' and how adhereing to that is moreimportant than the actions themselves.

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