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Critical Essay on The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest‘ is a famous play written by Oscar Wilde. This play was first performed at the St James’s Theatre in London in 1895. We can say that The Importance of Being Earnest is a farcical comedy. The author laughs at Victorian ways and hypocritical norms of life of that time. Oscar Wilde utilized paronomasia for the creation of the title of his play. The word “earnest” has two meanings: “serious” and a male name “Ernest”, which becomes in the center of the play. Of course, the characters are not serious and it emphasizes the ironical background of the title. The title is ironical and puzzling at the same time. It attracts the reader’s attention at once. I will try to analyze the play and its structure in detail.

The main characters of the play are John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff. Both men used the name Ernest to avoid embarrassing and awkward social conventions and obligations. Of course, it caused a great number of funny misunderstandings. Oscar Wilde wrote his play according to the norms of aestheticism. He used this style to protest against the moral values of the Victorian era. Wilde said that important and serious things should be treated with the slight humor. He tried to break the practical and sensible approach towards life in his society.

The author does not focus on the plot development and description of his characters. The reader remembers the play due to its dialogues, sharp epigrams, aphorisms, paradoxes and mockery of the existing prejudices and conventions. It is easy to notice that Oscar Wilde does not try to describe his characters in the professional way. He does not care about the plot. The author is interested in paronomasia and the proper use of jokes and aphorisms in his dialogues. He polished every phrase skillfully in order to impress and amuse the audience. Wilde managed to present his special kind of art. This is the art, which does not have any utilitarian purposes. The entire plot is built on the basis on a funny misunderstanding. He did not try to make this story true-to-life. On the other hand, one cannot say that The Importance of Being Earnest does not have sense. The meaning and the message of the play stay behind the plot.

Oscar Wilde used paradox to depict the difference between the inner and outer dimensions of the hypocritical society. In addition, there are many neologisms, like bunburism or womanthrope. It demonstrates the author’s passion and love towards linguistics. He enjoyed to play with words and invented a great number of new words to improve the quality and the tune of his texts. Obviously, the play was performed in the theatre; therefore, it was important to adapt the text to the oral presentation on public. The audience should accept the text easily. Furthermore, the text should be understandable and simple for an average person. No wonder, the author concentrated on the quality of his dialogues and paid little attention to the plot development. The Importance of Being Earnest is accepted lightly and provokes positive emotions.

It is interesting that The Importance of Being Earnest brought enormous fame to Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, it also ruined his career. After the first night of the play the author was accused of homosexual relations and was imprisoned. His reputation was ruined and he had to move to Paris. Very few theaters agreed to perform his plays. Fortunately, his reputation was restored after his death.

The Importance of Being Earnest is the brightest example of a farcical comedy, which contains a great number of jokes and polished dialogues. It will help you spend time with pleasure and amusement. One will be pleased to watch it at the theatre or to read it in a common way.

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