Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a satirical comedy which discusses and pokes fun at themes like marriage and societal niceties, the main themes governing the Victorian era. In this three act play, we look at the protagonists using aliases and adopting fictitious characters to escape from the weighty issue of dealing with social obligations.
My first reading of this play was sometime in high school as part of the prescribed English syllabus. Miss S had picked out students to read the parts of the various characters. As the reading progressed, we lost track of time. It took the bell to remind us that the hour had come to an end. The sound of collective groans a strong reminder of how much had enjoyed the play.
A recent reading of the play brought back a lot of nostalgia, high school memories, and rekindled my love for Oscar Wilde. His sharp, witty remarks on marriage and societal norms have a sarcastic bold, hard hitting character which is a trait flaunted and appreciated by the youth. In my opinion, the current generation will find much to agree with Oscar Wilde and his views. If you are not convinced, here are some lines to change your mind.
Marriage is a misunderstanding between a man and a young person
Algernon. Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that?
Lane. I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.
The end of romance marks the beginning of marriage
Algernon. I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.
The reason why your local waterhole is crawling with young unmarried men
Algernon. Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don’t think it right.
Jack. Oh, that is nonsense!
Algernon. It isn’t. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place.
Marriage and its victims
Lady Bracknell. I’m sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury. I hadn’t been there since her poor husband’s death. I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger.
On smoking as an occupation
Jack. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
Lady Bracknell. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
On relatives and their relative-state of importance
Algernon. My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
Marriage’s effects on men
Chasuble. But is a man not equally attractive when married?
Miss Prism. No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.
Algernon. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
Celibacy’s curse on men
Miss Prism. [Sententiously.] That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day. And you do not seem to realise, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.
If you liked reading these lines and find yourself in sync with Wilde’s views, then do read up the complete play here.
Edit: This post was selected by BlogAdda for their Spicy Saturday 8 August 2015 edition.