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Friday, 22 March 2019

Discuss Oscar Wilde's craftsmanship in The Importance of Being Earnest?

The Importance of Being Earnest is the highest peak in the literary career of Oscar Wilde. The chief merit of the play lies in its use of witty dialogue, epigrams and paradoxical statements. This provides plenty of wit and humour.

There are two major love-affairs - between Jack and Gwendolen and between Algernon and Cecily, and the minor love-affair between Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. When the play opens, we find Jack visiting London under the assumed name of Ernest and it is by this name that he is known to Gwendolen. He proposes marriage to Gwendolen who readily accepts the proposal but her mother Lady Bracknell turns it down on account of Jacks unknown parentage.

Algernon, the lover of the second pair has invented a fictitious friend Bunbury who is constantly ailing. He uses this pretext to leave London whenever he wishes to escape the ordeal of attending his aunt Augusta's boring dinner parties. He comes to learn that Jack is the guardian of a young and pretty girl of eighteen, who lives in the countryside under the care of her governess, Miss Prism. He takes down Jack's country address and arrives at his country house uninvited in order to meet Cecily. This is a part of his 'Bunburying.'In the third love-affair, the spinster Miss Prism, the governess of Cecily, is attracted towards the pompous Rector, Dr. Chasuble. This love-affair runs parallel to the one between Algernon and Cecily. Meanwhile, Algernon poses as Jack's profligate younger brother Ernest with whom Cecily has already fallen in love because of his wicked ways. So when he proposes to him, she readily accepts him. She loves him because he is called 'Ernest' in the same manner as Gwendolen loves Jack because he moves around in London under this assumed name.The two major love stories have been interwoven perfectly. Algernon cannot marry Cecily unless Lady Bracknell permits Gwendolen to marry Jack, and Lady Bracknell permits Gwendolen's marriage to Jack only when it is discovered that Jack is Lady Bracknell's own nephew. The minor love-affair, between Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble is also bright into a close relationship with the two major love-affairs.The play progresses on parallelism, such as Jack inventing a fictitious younger brother Ernest in order to come to London from the countryside and Algernon inventing a fictitious friend Bunbury whenever he wishes to escape the boredom of Aunt Augusta's societal get together. Another parallelism in the play is Gwendolen and Cecily's instant fascination with the name 'Ernest', which 'inspires absolute confidence" in both of them. They fall in love with the name rather than the persons. This gives rise to serious misunderstanding between the two.Finally, the construction of this play rests also on a series of secrets and the disclosure of those secrets. Deception and deceit are the basis of most comedies, and The Importance of Being Earnest is no exception.

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