After reading Oscar Wilde’s dark classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, I certainly wasn’t expecting this little play to be so charming and lighthearted. The Importance of Being Earnest is a true treat to read, for more reason than one.
Wilde surprised me with his witty, hilarious sense of humor. I laughed out loud several times while reading this play, particularly at the banter between Algernon and Jack. The comedy is smart, complete with sharp, biting comebacks and outlandish drama. Of course, one of the most notable jokes is the play on words involving “earnest” and “Ernest.” Wilde’s brilliant cleverness shines through this duality because both words are integral to the story. It is important for Jack and Algernon to be named “Ernest” in order for the women to agree to marry them; however, being “earnest” is imperative as well as to avoid becoming tangled in a sticky web of lies. These two distinct meanings overlap and intertwine as the drama unfolds until finally culminating in one hilarious end scene. There are several other running jokes, but this duality was by far my favorite.
Much of this drama’s humor also stem’s from Wilde’s critical view of the Victorian upper class. For instance, the fact that Algernon and Jack are worried about their fabricated second identities shows how privileged their lives actually are. The women are more concerned about the name of their future husbands than anything else, while the men seem to be singularly focused on the beauty of their future wives. Lower classes don’t know where there next meal is coming from, but the only thing that matters to these uppity people is the status of their cucumber sandwiches. These trivial, frivolous troubles emphasize the absurdity that often accompanies immense wealth and privilege. In this way, Wilde successfully delivers a message about class and Victorian society through humor, wit, and a clever use of language.
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”
Moreover, The Importance of Being Earnest is such a short, quick read that I finished it in a single sitting. Though this play is short, it certainly packs a powerful, entertaining punch. The story is simple, the dialogue is direct, and every scene serves an obviously important purpose. It takes a masterful writer to write both concisely and comprehensively, two skills which Wilde clearly possesses. Reading such a short but effectively written work is refreshing, especially after slogging through so many longer novels recently. There’s something to be said for a quick, powerful read!
Overall, I was completely taken aback by this play’s charming humor, lighthearted tone, clever wit, and sharp critique of Victorian society. The Importance of Being Earnest is one of the best plays I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I will definitely be exploring more of Oscar Wilde’s work in the future!
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I feel as though this is a play that anyone and everyone can enjoy, even if you’re not usually interested in drama.
What are your thoughts on this play? Would you recommend any of Oscar Wilde’s other works? Let me know in the comments section below!