Book Report: Importance of Being Earnest

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¶ … Being Earnest

The most pivotal aspect to correctly understanding the characterization of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest," is the realization that this play functions as a satire. Specifically, the author was attempting to make light of the austerity that typified the tradition of Victorian society. In that sense, it is crucial to denote the role that Bracknell fills within this work. Whereas there are other characters that represent the virtues of Victorian society (most notably Jack Worthing), virtually all of them display faults that are at variance with the conventional customs of such a society. Lady Bracknell, however, does not. She eschews any alter-ego / dual personalities in order to get away with vices that such a society disproves of. Instead, she is able to engage in her vices and display negative characteristics that are all fundamentally a part of Victorian society. In this respect, her characterization functions as the quintessential Victorian society member, who adheres to its values and displays its negative attributes in much the same way.

In many ways, Victorian society is preoccupied with appearances and embraces a superficiality that lies just beneath its staid, austere surface of upstanding mores and traditional morality. Lady Bracknell's character demonstrates these qualities more than the others in the play because she willingly displays such superficiality in a way that is congruent with conventional Victorian behavior. An excellent example of this fact is her initial regard for Worthing as a suitable husband for her daughter, Gwendolyn. Bracknell wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. She realizes that Worthing has a substantial fortune and a fair degree of power and reputation around town; this knowledge, however, is not good enough. She presses him to know the reputation of his familial lineage and, because he does not know it, she does not consider him worthy enough to have her daughter's hand in marriage, which she tells him in the following quotation. "You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter - a girl brought up with the utmost care - to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning, Mr. Worthing!" (Act I). The reference to the "parcel " and "cloak-room" is a reference to the fact that Jack was found in a handbag. This information concludes his interview with Bracknell, whose preoccupation with lineage and a reputable name is indicative of this tradition in Victorian society -- despite the overt shallowness it displays.

However, the truly transitory nature of Victorian society and its situation ethics is evinced most convincingly when Lady Bracknell considers the marriage of her nephew to Cecily, who is Jack's ward. Because Cecil is in the guardianship… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Importance of Being Earnest.  (2013, February 17).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/importance-being-earnest/3231926

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"Importance of Being Earnest."  17 February 2013.  Web.  23 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/importance-being-earnest/3231926>.

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"Importance of Being Earnest."  Essaytown.com.  February 17, 2013.  Accessed July 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/importance-being-earnest/3231926.