Is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde a Farce or a Comedy of Manners
The Importance of Being. Earnest is a famous play that has a great balance of satire, fantasy and reality Because of this, it is rather difficult to label it as a certain type of play. When first reading this play, it seems like a group of senseless characters built purelv far comical purposes. But after studving it further the play is of the biggest criticisms of The Importance of Being Earnest is that this play doesn’t deal with any major issues and fails to teach important lessons, which are major characteristics of a farce. Although this play does include references to a few issues of the time, the pettiness of the characters dominates the play. In this piece, the author places an emphasis on upper-class characters that live meaningless lives. It involves irony about a certain name, false personalities, and bored characters that are stuck in their own imagination. Also, the absurdity of the ending fixes the unrealistic expectation that Gwendolyn and Cecily hold. Because all of these qualities exist, this play must be considered a farce in some way.
On the other hand, The Importance of Being Earnest has plenty of characteristics of a comedy of manners. The play’s satirical view of Victorian aristocracy society provides a reference to an issue at that time. The upper class was known for its insincerity and money mindedness. This play also concentrates on the society’s judgment on materialistic things such as food, money, and appearance. Different characters in the play symbolize these standards, and this play gives the audience a look into this society. Many questionable values are highlighted in this play. For example, Lady Bracknell decides that Jack was unfit to marry Gwendolyn after she discovers information about his past (being found in a train station). To her, family status was more important than his skills and education level. This is shown when she realizes that Cecily has a large sum of money that she inherited. After recognizing this, she is willing to let her marry Algernon. Also, Cecily and Gwendolyn fall in love with Jack and Algernon simply because they love the name Ernest. They simply cannot marry anybody else. This example of absurdity demonstrates satire because Gwendolyn and Cecily’s unreasonable thoughts show how society views appearance and names. By ridiculing these beliefs, the play
teaches a minor lesson and adds a comical touch to the play. Because of this, The Importance of Being Earnest has many qualities of a comedy of manners.
It is difficult to label this piece as a certain type of play. This play has many extreme situations that contain fantasy in them. Because of this stretch on reality, it is fair to call this play a farce. However, its criticism of Victorian society teaches a valuable lesson in the end. By showing how unreasonable and hypocritical society can be, it is fair to call the play a comedy of manners because the author provides a critique on Victorian society. However, this play is closer to a farce because of the stretch of fantasy. The wacky conclusion is almost impossible, and it is very rare that extreme problems can be solved by an ironic situation. By including the ironic ending, he provides a laugh and makes a mockery of the whole plot. The improbable circumstances, exaggerated characters, and entertaining aspects are on levels past reality. Therefore, this play is closer to a farce than to a comedy of manners.