the Importance of Being Earnest; Themes; Marriage

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Q: Some audiences think that this play gives a negative view of marriage. How far do you agree with this opinion?

Ans:

·      Men’s views on marriage contrast with women’s views

·      Youth’s views contrast with the elders’

·      Business vs. pleasure

·      Since this is a social satire, the views are not very serious or genuine;

·      Rather, Wilde uses the different characters to host his own debate on the many aspects of marriage (e.g: Alg. is a member of the youth that has distaste for marriage until he himself falls in love; Lady Bracknell is a high and mighty woman who sees marriage as a means to raise a social status rather than a commitment for love, etc.)

 

Men:

 

·      Algernon: Gives little thought to marriage, undermining its importance

On the contrary, he finds marriage antonymous to love; “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal… The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If I ever get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.”

While his views on marriage may be lax, he criticizes others’ poor portrayal of marriage; e.g: he disapproves of Lane’s relaxed attitude towards his failed marriage, but this may show his hypocrisy—he himself says that “divorces are made in heaven.”

However, this low opinion of marriage switches after Alg. meets Cecily. After having met her, Alg. reforms all his preconceived notions that marriage is unnecessary or kills romance, and does everything in his power to secure his marriage with Cecily.

 

·      Jack:  Considered a true romantic; sees marriage as an act of love

His views on love and marriage contrast with Alg.’s views

He is more sensible regarding the subject, and his choice of Gwendolen as a wife-to-be also has more thought put behind it than Alg.’s, Cecily’s, or Gwen’s choices

He goes to great lengths to marry Gwen, injecting a sense of importance of marriage into the play, portraying its strength to readers, as it gives Jack motivation to persevere past several obstacles, including Lady Bracknell’s disapproval and Alg’s disapproval.

“The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted” > high opinion and respect for marriage

 

·      Lane:  “I believe {marriage} is a very pleasant state, sir.”

“I myself have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.” > inverse of the phrase, turning “understanding” into “misunderstanding”

“in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.” Lane implies that in married households, celebrations are usually either scarce, or poor in quality, resulting in a tendency for the champagne to be low-quality. On the other hand, the quality of wine is reasonable, so marriage brings with it many reasons to drink. This may suggest the troubles that come with marriage.

 

Women:

In general, women view

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