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Inversion in The Importance of Being Earnest - Essay Example

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This paper "Inversion in The Importance of Being Earnest" discusses Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest that is heavily themed with hypocrisy. One of the most frequently occurring motifs in the underlying theme of hypocrisy is inversion…
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Extract of sample "Inversion in The Importance of Being Earnest"

Download file to see previous pages Through Algernon, Wilde offers an inverted definition of the matrimonial values in Victorian society and simultaneously comments on the hypocrisy of those conventions. Supposedly, marriage is the solemn union of two people and infidelity is forbidden. However, in reality, Victorian society condemns infidelity but at the same time infidelity is a common feature in Victorian marriages. In other words, Victorian values are more about the appearance of propriety rather than actual conformity with those social values.
Algernon’s comment on the state of Victorian marriages engages the reader’s attention to the gap between convention and reality. The gap is closed by pretensions and hypocrisy. In other words, convention dictates that marriage is solemn and command fidelity. However, in practice spouses stray from the matrimonial commitments and mask those infractions so as to only appear to comply with the convention.

Through the motif of inversion, Algernon’s short statement on marriage subverts the Victorian convention and points out the reality. Compliance with Victorian values is accomplished through mere appearances. Wilde, therefore, advances the idea of the significance of being dishonest and therefore draws attention to the irony of the play’s title. Algernon and Jack are both used to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the restrictive and superficial values of Victorian values. The motif of inversion is exemplified by both characters’ adoption of double identities to highlight this hypocrisy and the pretensions it commands.

In order to both satisfy the dictates of Victorian social values and to pursue one’s own individual needs and desires, it was necessary to assume dual identities. Jack gives voice to this motif of inversion by stating that:

This motif of inversion is more directly promulgated by Jack and Algernon’s actual duplicity. Jack and Algernon create alter egos of Earnest and Banbury, both false identities that allow them to escape their ascribed roles and to pursue their own honest desires.   ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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