I think the theme my literature teacher was going for this last semester was stories that look like something that’s absolutely silly but, in fact, are very deep and depicted different aspects of society without being too blatant. First it was Animal Farm, and now it’s the Importance of Being Earnest.
In the Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde combines elements of a comedy of manners –love thwarted by circumstances within a couple, high regard for social status and financial suitability, sparkling dialogue between witty characters– and elements of melodrama –mistaken identity and revelation of secrets of the past. If you like Oscar Wilde and any of those elements appeal to you, then you’re probably going to enjoy the Importance of Being Earnest.
Besides the play’s title which is brilliantly relevant and, to me, quite appealing, what makes this play special is most certainly its characters. Somehow, Oscar Wilde found a way to make the characters sound sophisticated even when they were just talking about quite trivial things such as cake and the existence of flowers in the country side. The aim of the play is to reveal the shallowness of society at that point of time. And every time one of the play’s characters says a line, this gets proven true.
Another important thing that appears in the story and is somewhat still existent in our current society is the gap between generations, which, when combined with parents’ search for an eligible (wealthy, of good reputation) partners for their daughters, leads to many problems. Here, we also see how adamantly family members may be willing to believe in the good nature of their relatives, even if they don’t truly know much about what goes on in said relatives’ lives.
What makes all of this worth reading about is the humorous aspect that Oscar Wilde includes throughout the story. I promise you that I laughed out loud the first two times I read this book. In case you were wondering, I was reading it for the fourth time yesterday. Also, there are two huge bonuses that come with this book:
A. It’s relatively small. My copy is only 68 pages, and since it’s a play, it’s very easy to read through quickly. Therefore, if you’re looking for an easy, yet classic read, this is the book for you.
B. There is an impeccable movie version of it which follows Oscar Wilde’s play quite closely (not entirely but quite closely)! It stars Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, if I remember correctly.
So yeah. I will forever have a soft spot for this play! And now that I’ve read the Picture of Dorian Gray and am able to see how Oscar Wilde has found too completely different, yet equally stunning ways to depict the follies of society, I love it even more!