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Word Count: 878
THE PARADOX OF VICTORIAN ENGLAND Throughout The Importance of Being Earnest the characters construct a world that is filled with exaggeration irony and absurdity this worlds humor casts a spell on the audience which paradoxically is created through an exaggeration of the very world the Victorian audience lives in Thus Oscar Wildes social criticism is made doubly ironic his criticisms include those of the Victorian ideas of marriage class morality and the appearance of respectability Wildes main criticism in the play is with the institution of marriage For although it is continually criticized by the characters especially Algernon who calls it demoralizing marriage is in fact what all the action of the play moves toward For instance Jack continually tries to secure Gwendolyns hand in marriage and Algernon tries to get Cecily to marry him Throughout these attempts absurdities frequently arise For instance when Algernon is pretending to be Ernest Jacks younger and more mischievous brother Cecily informs him that they have been engaged for approximately three months even though this was the first actual meeting between the two Another oddity is that all the main characters are aware that marriages in Victorian England are problematic yet they proceed to move towards the institution anyway For instance Lane the butler who was married once before calls his marriage a misunderstanding while Lady Bracknell a married aristocrat never seems to express any form of interest in her husband when his name arises in conversation These tribulations present in marriage cause Algernon to proclaim that Divorces are made in heaven Wildes criticisms of marriage seem to deride both Victorian Literature which often has marriage as its central issue and English society which as Wilde asserts treats all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality The Victorian class system is also vastly criticized in the course of the play and it is done mainly through the vehicle of Lady Bracknell Lady Bracknell who represents the
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