Love in The Importance of Being Earnest Essay
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Love in The Importance of Being Earnest
Love is perhaps the most actively sought moral objective of one's life. And though marriage is often thought to be the logical consequence of love, it is Oscar Wilde's contention in his satire, The Importance of Being Earnest, that love begets bliss and marriage thwarts this course of bliss. Algernon Moncrieff spends very little time falling in love and the rest of the time striving toward engagement. Wilde demonstrates through him that once one becomes intent upon achieving a goal, the individual's motivation becomes a matter of action rather than truth. Algernon is no longer driven by a moral objective; instead, he becomes intent upon achieving a societal standard. "The truth is rarely pure,…show more content…
Upon initially hearing about Cicely, Algernon is intrigued. She is no more than a name on a cigarette case. After intense probing, Jack discloses Cicely's identity. Algernon then tells Jack, "I would rather like to see Cicely" (51). She suddenly becomes more of a name to Algernon, and he begins to pursue her as more than a person; she becomes his moral objective. When Jack reveals to Gwendolen his address in the country, Algernon secretly "writes the address on his shirt-cuff" (53) in hopes of going to meet Cicely. Shortly after his first encounter with her, he reveals to Jack, "I am in love with Cicely, and that is everything" (71). This newfound love is his truth. He admits to her, "Cicely, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly" (73). Yet Algernon quickly abandons the truth imbedded in love, his moral objective, and instead opts for convention. "I don't care for anybody in the whole world but you. I love you, Cecily. You will marry me, won't you?" (74). The irony displayed through Algernon's self-contradiction is the pivotal progression that eventually results in Wilde's intended resolution of the play Algernon reveals he "simply wanted to be engaged to Cecily" (88) to Jack, who quickly dismisses him. "There is
The big question The Importance of Being Earnest raises is whether marriage is pleasurable... or a restrictive social duty.
In general, the older generation thinks of marriage as a means to an end, a way of maintaining or bettering your social position. If you want to get married, you submit to an interrogation: "State your name, rank, and serial number." The number that matters in this case, however, is your income; you'd better have bank.
You also need to have an acceptable title, along with the parents to prove it. The hot-blooded youngsters think they are interested in love. One of the huge ironies in the play—and what makes it a satire of Victorian society—is that, in the end, nobody really breaks the rules. They color within the lines, and marry exactly the type of person their society expects them to.
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble challenge the social order by ultimately yielding to marriage based on love instead of marrying for social rank or wealth, as most of the older generation espouses.
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon represents a modern mindset toward marriage because he is skeptical about the happiness of couples in marriage and has fears about committing to one woman—unlike Jack, who holds more traditional nineteenth-century views on marriage.