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Word Count: 1,855
Oscar Wilde frames The Importance of Being Earnest around the paradoxical epigram a skewering metaphor for the plays central theme of division of truth and identity that hints at a homosexual subtext Other targets of Wildes absurd yet grounded wit are the social conventions of his stuffy Victorian society which are exposed as a shallow mask of manners 1655 Aided by clever wordplay frantic misunderstanding and dissonance of knowledge between the characters and the audience devices that are now staples of contemporary theater and situation comedy Earnest suggests that especially in civilized society we all lead double lives that force upon us a variety of postures an idea with which the closeted until his public charge for sodomy homosexual Wilde was understandably obsessed The plays initial thrust is in its exploration of bisexual identities Algernons and Jacks Bunburys initially function as separate geographic personas for the city and country simple escapes from nagging social obligations However the homoerotic connotations of the punning name even the double bus which serve mostly an alliterative purpose insinuate a union of similarities and Bunbury rhymes with buggery British slang for sodomy flare up when paired with Algernons repeated assaults on marriage ALGERNON She will place me next to Mary Farquhar who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner table That is not very pleasant Indeed it is not even decent and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous It looks so bad It is simply washing ones clean linen in public 1633 The mixed truth of a Wilde epigram - stating the normal in a ludicrous fashion as with Algernons aghast reaction to marital flirtation and often capped by tweaking an established clich as with washing ones clean linen - is not only humorous but salient his distaste for public displays of clean heterosexual affection implies his deep-seated
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