Satire in the Importance of Being Ernest
The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners, whereby Oscar Wilde uses satire to ridicule marriage, love and the mentality of the Victorian aristocratic society. It can also be referred to as a satiric comedy. What is a satire and what is Oscar Wilde trying to emphasize by employing it in his play? A satiric comedy ridicules political policies or attacks deviations from social order by making ridiculous, the violators of its standards of morals or manners. Usually, a satiric piece doesn't serve only as a form of criticism, but to correct flaws in the characters or to somehow make them better in the end.
The pun on the word "Earnest" suggests two things; it stands for the name but also refers to honesty and integrity. It is also known as a 'one joke'In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, much is made of societal expectations, protocols, as well as the inversions of these expectations. A character, Jack Worthing, adopts an alter ego when going into town to avoid keeping up with the serious and morally upright behaviour that is expected of him as guardian to his eighteen-year-old ward, Cecily. Another character, Algernon Moncrieff, makes up an invalid friend Bunbury whose grave health conditions provide him with the excuse to escape to the country as and when he pleases. Both Jack and Algernon are admired by two young ladies who erroneously believe the men's names to be Ernest, and who adore the men for this very reason. In relating the story of mix-ups and mistaken identities, the ideals and manners of the Victorian society are satirized in a comedy where the characters "treat all the trivial things of life seriously and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality" (Wilde back cover), in the words of the author himself.