The True Meaning of The Importance of Being Earnest

This blog serves as a platform for me to try out different styles of writing. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to include an attempt at satire.

But first, a bit of background. The initial inspiration for this piece was a Facebook post that had an obviously ridiculous interpretation of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The opportunity for me to write a satirical piece was English class. Feeling tired and not at all motivated to write an in-class essay about a play which may very well be about prioritizing beauty, as opposed to truth, in art, this is what resulted:

“In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Wilde contrasts the ordinary characters of Lane and Miss Prism with the bourgeois Algernon and Lady Bracknell to criticize the strict class structure of Victorian England. Wilde uses language to illustrate the conflicts between the proletariat Lane and Miss Prism, and their upper class patrons. Wilde argues that nothing short of a revolutionary uprising by the lower class will be successful at removing economic and social inequality.

The idea of social class is made evident through Algernon’s dismissive and oppressive relationship with Lane, his butler. The power difference inherent in their jobs stands in contrast to the relative utility each character provides for society. While Algernon, ostensibly the more socially valuable individual, plays the piano and talks to his friends, Lane is the main economic producer and consumer within Algernon’s household. Algernon’s dismissive response to Lane’s personal life accentuates the difference between the bourgeois passivity and neglect towards the working class. Economic differences appear again through Lane’s purchase of the cucumber sandwiches, which are subsequently consumed by Algernon. The waste of goods at the expense of the labor of the proletariat Lane demonstrates the lack of economic equality in Victorian society. Lane is forced to disown his purchase of the cucumbers in order to keep Algernon’s social image clean, which represents the complete and total subjugation of the working class for the sake of appeasing the whims of the upper class. In this conflict, there seems to be no hope for the lower classes, as Lane has been beaten down socially, personally, and economically.

In front of this backdrop of oppression, the conflict between Miss Prism, a sensible, hard-working member of the proletariat, and Lady Bracknell, the matriarch of bourgeois society nearly results in the overthrow of this microcosm of Victorian society. However, the plot is foiled when Prism refuses to take responsibility for her revolutionary actions. Prism’s honest character is shown through her dutiful attempt to educate her pupil Cecily, on the economic travails of the native Indians against the British colonialist. In contrast, Bracknell’s xenophobic language against the education of the lower classes is proved to be merely the speech of a bourgeois fool afraid of losing her social status. Miss Prism’s intelligence clearly poses a threat to Bracknell, especially when it is revealed that Prism took Bracknell’s nephew and hid him in a handbag as a baby, an obvious attempt to begin the destruction of class structure. Without social connections, the baby would be a member of the proletariat. It is only through a series of ridiculous misfortunes that Prism’s plan is prevented from succeeding. The baby was found by a member of the bourgeois, and an exceedingly unlikely encounter with Lady Bracknell led to the failure of the plan. However, had Prism taken ownership of her actions rather than claim it was only a “moment of mental abstraction,” she would have shattered the complacent world view of her bourgeois overlords by demonstrating the intelligence and capability of the lower class.

Finally, by couching his message of revolutionary change within a bourgeois satire, Wilde manages to call the working class to action while simultaneously providing the bourgeois with more complacent entertainment. Clearly, the fact that much of this analysis is fabrication and that the author of this paper is a high school senior has no bearing on the central idea that within Wilde’s satire, an element of honest, social criticism of class differences does in fact exist.”

Link to the original inspiration: the_truth_about_a_separate_peace


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