Does Wilde Criticize The Hypocrisy Of Victorian Society

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In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde satirizes the arrogance and hypocrisy of upper-class Victorian society throughout the play by placing emphasis on items and rituals such as cigarette cases and tea ceremonies. Wilde places emphasis on these details in order to situate the characters in a society of moral looseness, duplicity, and trivial values. In a society where style is everything Jack and Algernon create alter egos, Ernest and Bunbury, through the practice of “bunburying.” The practice of Bunburyism allow the men to appear as much more responsible and honourable characters than they actually are. This facade points towards the hypocrisy of Victorian society, where style is desirable, and truth is overlooked as long…show more content…
Algernon suspects Jack of “being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist,” so he plays a witty verbal game with Jack to expose his real name (8). Wilde criticizes the Victorian ideal of superficiality through Algernon’s quip that Jack looks as if his name is Ernest. Since he is “the most earnest-looking person [he] ever saw in [his] life” (7). Jack is upset as Algernon exposes his alter ego and criticizes Algernon for talking as if he was a dentist, since it “produces a false impression” (7). Ironically, Jack is reprimanding Algernon for masquerading as something he is not, meanwhile Jack is partaking in bunburyism. Wilde brings to light the hypocrisy of the situation through this witty repartee. Victorian duplicity is steadily emphasised with Algernon’s sharp response to Jack. "More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read," is a reference once again to hypocrisy (6). To read something indecent is to be trending, but dare not speak of it in well-bred company, as it is not prim and proper to do so. The cigarette case, a seemingly minuscule item, serves to perpetuate Wilde’s criticism of Victorian society and to ignite bunburyism. Now, Algernon is to parade around the country as Jack’s irresponsible brother Ernest and stir up misfortune for every character in the

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