Oscar Wilde became one of Londons most popular playwrights in the early 1890s, due to his brilliant theatrical plays, one of which being. The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest in in 1894 towards the end of the Victorian Era. The play introduces multiply characters with very different identities.
Jack is a serious man except when it comes to love, Algernon is an intelligent guy who treats love and life like a game, lady Bracknell who only cares about status and whom is very judgmental, Cecily is a graceful and well-educated girl, Gwendolen is a sensitive and fashionable lady who also is well educated.
These characters are the main folk. This article will inform about what one perspective about the concept of identity is shown in the play, though ways of of exploring culture, gender, family, age and authority.
Oscar Wilde greatly expresses the perspective of cultural identity to show the concept of personality amongst the characters in the play.
Wiles perspective on cultural identity is obviously an old one but is still relevant in todays society. Cultural identity is the identity or feeling of having a place with a group. It is a piece of an individual’s self-understanding and self-awareness and is identified with nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or any sort of social group that has its own culture. In mister Wildes case, in the Victorian era, cultural identity is majorly influenced by social class.
This is seen in the play through lady Bracknells eyes, she thinks the poor should not coexist with the rich, through ways of subtly.
In the play she says, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes. She says this meaning that it would probably lead to acts of violence, she believes that if the poor had an education, it would lead to them acquiring wealth and causing uprisings that the rich dont want. Lady Bracknell thinks you have to be born rich to have an education.
Surprisingly in todays society you can still see the discrimination between the rich and the poor. In 2017 a guy did a social experiment called Asking for Help – Business Suit Vs Homeless. In the first part of the video the guy dresses up like a business man and goes to the city to ask people for some change. Which to his surprise almost everyone he asked gave him a piece of their wallet. Unfortunately, when he changed his look and dressed homeless, most didnt even bat an eye. People still to this day think of the poor as social inadequate, thus showing the gap between the social classes.
How this comes into social identity? You ask, well in the minds of the people in high society, it is wrong to associate with a peasant. If you were to affiliate with such a person in the Victorian era and be seen doing so, word would quickly spread. Many will know what you have done and sure enough you will be cast as an outsider. With this in mind its no wonder that people were so stuck up, there livelihood depended on it, bringing up the topic of self awareness.
Lady Bracknell is a prime example of what cultural identity looks like. She knows what to do, how to do it, how to look, how to act and over all what to have, just to fit in with the higher-class social community. Lady Bracknell can correct silly mistakes that wouldnt be socially exactable such as Cecilys appearance. Notably Lady Bracknell isnt all shallow as she understands that society views are fault with her saying, we live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces. This meaning that people only care for the pretty faces, tiny waists and snow pale skin. Though she says this, she immediately cuts to whats wrong with Cecilys natural body and refers her to someone who could produce a marvellous result. Cecily herself may not be ugly but to society, the perfect woman is a fake one.
In the play, there are scenes that are still relevant to this day. When lady Bracknell finds out that jack has proposed to her darling Gwendolen, she decides to question him to see whether or not he is eligible to be on her list for suitable young men that are able to marry Gwendolen. Even though Gwendolen is of age, because of the authority and power lady Bracknell has, Gwendolen wouldnt dare to stand up to her. Yes, it was completely fine married someone of your choice, though through the eyes of some it was not fine to marry someone society deemed unworthy. if lady Bracknell deemed jack unworthy, then its most likely others will see him as unworthy, causing lady Bracknells image to be damaged.
In the Victorian Era, image was everything. Minds were shallow due to lack of information, education and social development. Society was still developing, and due to the industrial revolution, inventions and innovations were being made each day. People were becoming well know and everyone was trying to get in and not be left out. A damaged image for a person could mean the end of everything. to stuff up once could ruin your whole life, people will stop talking to you, business will stop booming and ultimately you will be cast as an outsider.
In Oscar Wildes The Importance of Being Earnest, he explores multiple perspectives to show the reader the idea of identity. Wilde, through ways of character personalities shows gender, family/community, age, authority/power and last but not least cultural identity. Each character has something different to bring to the table, this brings life to the play as they bounce of each other perfectly well. Which makes Wildes play oh so much more enjoyable.