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Importance of Being Earnest

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Love equals Excitement Mr. Algernon

"I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact" (Norton 2180). Through this statement and others in The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde creates a mockery and joke of the most sacred tradition in society; marriage. Wilde's intent in this play is to satirize and make fun of romantic situations that are far fetched but also contain some reality in the conversations of his characters. Marriage is discussed frequently by all the characters and the conversations are typically normal debates on what marriage is about, but when the characters lives are put in a situation concerning marriage the situation becomes far from ordinary. Through this statement and the play Wilde is showing how people say one thing but usually act differently when thrown into a stressful but pleasant situation. Through these contradictions Wilde has a way of toying with our ideals and emotions by showing that living life in an ordinary way is boring.

Wilde dissects the institution of marriage from the engagement to when a spouse dies and the marriage ends. There is a sharp contrast between the way in which marriage is thought of at that time being sacred and the way it is portrayed when the characters are put in situations of love. Throughout the whole play there is a pessimistic view on marriage and one of the first topics brought up by Lady Bracknell is of her friend losing her husband. "Lady Bracknell, I hadn't been there since her poor husband's death. I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger." (Norton 2184). This statement's purpose is to shock the audience because one would expect a widow to be in very bad health but here we see the opposite. Similarly Algernon's statement is shocking because it is expected that aristocrats view marriage as being a positive and a good event in a person's life.

In the real world there is a system and rules to how one should go about being married but Wilde shows how this system of marriage supposedly kills love. In the first act this play may offend some people who view marriage as necessary way for civil people to live and it most likely offended people of that era because at the time this play was written divorce and having problems in a marriage reflected on a person's character. There is no denying that marriage can kill excitement but Wilde finds a way to keep the excitement by having his characters get married in unusual circumstances. Jack plans to ask Gwendolen to marry him, and Algernon immediately criticizes this because he does not believe that love can last with marriage. Algernon's point can be analyzed best in our own time period because divorce has never been so common. Couples can be passionate for years but still get divorced after marriage because they seem to lose that passion for each other. Even though it is a fact that marriage has a big failure rate we still view it as necessary and are insulted by those who do not believe it is necessary. Here Algernon seems to truly believe that marriage and excitement cannot co-exist but it is the excitement of love at first sight that will make Algernon a hypocrite later in the play.

Although Algernon's statement completely contradicts his actions when he proposes to Cecily but his proposal still mocks the concept of marriage. The normative concept of marriage is usually courting for a set period of time and then engagement. Algernon's proposal comes with little hesitation and after only knowing Cecily for



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