Marriage as Depicted in The Play "The Importance of Being Earnest"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 707 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 707|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Social Expectations of Marriage
  2. Love and Marriage
  3. Marriage as a Means of Escape
  4. Satirical Elements of Marriage
  5. Conclusion

"The Importance of Being Earnest," written by Oscar Wilde, is a comedic play that satirizes various aspects of Victorian society, including the institution of marriage. The play revolves around the lives of two men, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, and their pursuit of love and marriage. Through various characters and their peculiar motives for marriage, the play challenges societal expectations and offers a satirical critique of marriage. This essay will explore the themes of love and marriage in "The Importance of Being Earnest," analyzing how the play satirizes the institution of marriage and challenges societal expectations.

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Social Expectations of Marriage

During the Victorian era, marriage was viewed as a social contract and a means of securing wealth and social status. The character of Lady Bracknell, who embodies the societal expectations for marriage, emphasizes the importance of social standing when it comes to choosing a marital partner. She tells her daughter Gwendolen, "Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact."

Furthermore, the pursuit of marriage for social status is evident in the characters of Algernon and Gwendolen, who both express their desire to marry someone named Ernest. This desire is based on the idea that the name Ernest is associated with qualities of honesty and responsibility, which are perceived as desirable traits in a marital partner.

Love and Marriage

Amidst the societal expectations for marriage, the play also critiques the concept of love and its role in marriage. Characters like Jack and Gwendolen are fixated on the idea of romantic love, with Gwendolen declaring, "I adore you. But you haven't proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. The subject has not even been touched on."

However, the play questions the authenticity of their love, as both characters are more enamored with the idea of being in love with someone named Ernest rather than the actual individuals themselves. This exaggeration of romantic ideals satirizes the superficiality of Victorian society's approach to love and marriage.

Marriage as a Means of Escape

Another aspect of marriage that "The Importance of Being Earnest" satirizes is the idea of using marriage as a means of escape. Jack's desire to marry Gwendolen is not solely based on love, but also as a means to escape his responsibilities as a guardian to his young ward, Cecily. This is demonstrated when he states, "I don't propose to discuss modern culture or ethics or the poetry of Algernon. It's not the sort of thing one should talk of in private."

Furthermore, Lady Bracknell's opposition to the engagement between Algernon and Cecily highlights the play's critique of using marriage as a form of escape. Lady Bracknell's emphasis on social status and financial stability reveals the superficial and practical nature of marriage in Victorian society.

Satirical Elements of Marriage

"The Importance of Being Earnest" employs various satirical elements to comment on marriage. The play challenges societal hypocrisy and double standards, particularly in relation to marriage. Lady Bracknell's interrogation of Jack to ascertain his suitability as a potential suitor for Gwendolen is a satirical commentary on the superficial nature of Victorian courtship and marriage.

Additionally, the play utilizes comedic situations and wordplay to satirize the institution of marriage. The mistaken identities and farcical situations that arise from the characters' pursuit of marriage highlight the absurdity of society's rigid expectations of marriage and courtship.

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In conclusion, "The Importance of Being Earnest" offers a satirical critique of the institution of marriage, challenging societal expectations and attitudes towards love and marriage. The play satirizes the superficiality of Victorian courtship, the pursuit of marriage for social status, and the use of marriage as a means of escape. By using comedic situations and wordplay, the play highlights the absurdity and hypocrisy of societal expectations surrounding marriage. "The Importance of Being Earnest" remains relevant in the modern context, as it continues to offer a satirical commentary on the superficiality and societal expectations of love and marriage.

  1. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2010). Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Infobase Publishing.
  2. Wilde, O. (1895). The Importance of Being Earnest. Samuel French, Inc.
  3. Foster, R. (2004). The Importance of Being Earnest: A Re-Imagination. New Theatre Publications.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Marriage As Depicted in the Play “The Importance of Being Earnest”. (2024, January 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
“Marriage As Depicted in the Play “The Importance of Being Earnest”.” GradesFixer, 30 Jan. 2024,
Marriage As Depicted in the Play “The Importance of Being Earnest”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Apr. 2024].
Marriage As Depicted in the Play “The Importance of Being Earnest” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 30 [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from:
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