The comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, involves two bachelors, Jack and Algy. To escape their boring and tiresome lives, they create a false name, Earnest. This was after they met two gorgeous women who told them that they only dated or fell in love with men bearing the name Earnest (Watkin et al.). Unfortunately, this act eventually gets them into problems as they struggle to live up to their lies. This story depicts various topics. For example, marriage, morality, dual identities, and hypocrisy. The play depicts marriage as a source of wealth for the upper-class individuals.
From the play, Jack and Algy strive to marry their love interests. They even choose to live double lives to win the women whose hearts they are after (Watkin et al.). The author of the play, Wilde, illustrates this clearly in all three acts. This topic can be broken down further into three subdivisions. They include; the relationship between marriage and love, how the upper-class views marriage, and the criteria many people use when choosing their mates.
The author Wilde subtly suggests that marriage and love do not go together most of the time. In the first act, Algernon insinuates that marriage and love most of the time work against each other. This can be seen in a conversation between Algernon and his servant, Lane. He asks his servant why he drinks champagne in a bachelor’s house. The servant replies that he drinks the champagne to appreciate its superior quality (Watkin et al.). He proceeds to say that the quality of champaign in many married households is never that good.
Algernon realizes that these sentiments negatively portray marriage. He then proceeds to ask his friend, Jack, about the issue of marriage. When jack tells him that he had come to town to propose to Gwendolen, Algy’s cousin, Algernon gets dumbfounded as he had thought that jack was only dating his cousin for pleasure (Watkin et al.). He proceeds to say that he considered Jack’s relationship with his cousin as a business. Algernon preferred flirting and dating to marriage, even in his own love life. He thought marriage was as dull as his sentiments that courtship leads to marriage, but romance cannot be contained.
The majority of the major characters from the play area are from the upper class. On the issue of marriage, this group of people upheld Victorian values, thus, had various considerations. The considerations included; wealth, social status, and family background. They did not consider essential issues like romantic love (Carlson & Shirley 68). For instance, after jack’s proposal to Gwendolen, he proceeded to ask Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell, for Gwendolen’s hand in marriage. Jack is asked a series of questions regarding his background, social status, and wealth.
However, when Jack says that he does not know his parents, Lady Bracknell tells him to find a parent. Any parent with a suitable lineage should do it quickly. This was because the institution of marriage and family were highly considered in the Victorian era. Those in the lower classes were shut out in politics as they could not mingle with the rest (Watkin et al.). Therefore, Lady Bracknell viewed jack as an outcast, thus prompting her to tell him to get himself a parent. This would allow him to marry Gwendolen. Unfortunately, Lady Bracknell refuses to approve of his marriage to Gwendolen because he was an orphan.
Additionally, Victorian values only allowed those of the same social class to marry each other. As a result, society was divided into the upper, middle, and lower classes. Worse, the aristocratic attitudes widened the gap between these classes of people. For instance, when Jack tells Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother, that he does not subscribe to any political party and considers himself a liberal unionist, she finds the answers satisfying as she immediately assumed that he belonged to the Tory (Watkin et al.). She considers political alignments and class essential for evaluating a suitable suitor for her daughter.
Various methods were used by people when choosing suitable marriage partners. According to the Victorian laws, men were considered as those who were supposed to look for mates. They were deemed to be powerful. On the other hand, women were expected to sit pretty and wait for their mates. They were not allowed to hold any powerful position (Carlson & Shirley 64). They were expected to clean the house and take care of the children. However, when choosing a mate, the women’s parents got involved. They analyzed the suitability of the suitor.
From the context when Jack tells his friend Algernon that he wanted to propose to his first cousin, Gwendolen, the issue does not sit well with Algy. He wonders why jack wanted to propose to his cousin, with who he had been flirting. He assumed that their relationship was not serious. That it was just for pleasure. However, jack disappoints him by telling him that he loved Gwendolen and had found her to be an amazing person. This proposal issue prompted jack to visit Gwendolen’s mother to ask for her permission (Watkin et al.). Also, Jack and Algy are led to live double lives to win the women whose hearts they are after. The author, Wilde, illustrates the extent some people may go to select or choose a suitable partner.
On the whole, the context of marriage in the play “Importance of Being Earnest “is analyzed using three criteria. They include; how love and marriage are related, marriage and the social classes and how people choose their mates. It is realized that the Victorian rules had a significant role in the institution of marriage. The family background, political stand, and wealth were major factors considered when evaluating the suitability of marriage. The love between the partners was not considered. Also, in the Victorian era, people from different social classes were not allowed to intermarry. Finally, the play depicts that even though most of the major characters did not want to marry, they eventually get convinced to marry.
Carlson, Shirley J. “Black ideals of womanhood in the late Victorian era.” The Journal of Negro History 77.2 (2017): 61-73.
Watkin, Amy S., and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s how to Write about Oscar Wilde. Infobase Publishing, 2009.