A Marxist Criticism On

“The Importance Of Being Earnest” Essay, Research Paper

A Marxist Criticism on “The Importance of Being Earnest”

“Excuse me Geoffrey, could you get me some more water. I’m terribly

thirsty, and the weather out here isn’t doing any good for my complexion.”

declares the man as he sighs in exhaustion.

“Right away sir, anything else?” proclaims the servant.

“No that will be all.” says the man as he waves off the servant.

So is this the scene of yesteryear’s society or one of today’s, well in

actuality it can be either. In today’s world the rich still rely on butlers and

maids. It seems to be a practice that will always exist in this world, but the

question largely is not on their jobs, but if they are deemed of a different

class, and sadly to say yes. In today’s world it seems that class is still a

huge part of the world order, and moreover it seems that there will always be

the rich and poor, the owner and the worker. This is even demonstrated by the

literature of our time and that of other era’s, such as the play “The Importance

of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde. In this play Wilde display’s the class

structure with a different and interesting twist. He makes a reflection on the

society with his own sense of humor, but however it still leaves a very good

opportunity to make a Marxist critique about the way the class structure

influences the play. He leaves room for these critiques when he writes about

the servants, the nobles, and the middle class. His view on society and class

is very evident on the way the servants are portrayed.

“?I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane’”

“?No sir; it’s not a very interesting subject. I never think of it


In this passage from the play it is very clear that Wilde likes to give

his characters some life, but however it seemed that he was giving the servants

a bit too much, but nevertheless it does establish very well the position of

those servants. In the society Wilde is presenting it seems that the place of

the servant was not only for manual labor, but also to provide conversation, and

to compliment the employer’s personalities. In the story the idea of class was

demonstrated by the interaction between Lane and Algernon even though Lane was

witty he did know his place as a servant and throughout the play the servants

were an excellent reminder that class structure did exist. Wilde’s idea of a

witty servant has even spawned off into today’s society with television sitcoms

such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air” and “The Nanny”. In these shows the

class structure is inherent, but the gap between master and servant is smaller.

That is one of the things that Wilde seemed to make apparent, one can have

servants, but the gap between doesn’t have to be that large. There can be class

structure in the world, but the need for class discrimination doesn’t need to be

there, and another interesting critique can be made of the nobles of that time.

In the Victorian period, and today’s nobles exist. These are people who

are of noble birth right and is only passed on from generation to generation.

It is a well respected position, but the difference between the nobles of

today’s day and the older ones is the power that they have. In today’s time the

nobles have little power only respect, but in the Victorian period the power was

starting to diminish but it still existed. The characters in the play who were

of noble birth did indeed know how to use that power.

Well when one makes a Marxist criticism it can’t be solely based on the

story’s view of the servants, but however one needs to also look at the way the

nobility are viewed. In Oscar Wilde’s play he seems to make almost a mockery of

the nobility. When one sees the way the nobles are portrayed one will think

this is a sarcasm on the nobles, but however if one examines it closer he/she

may realize this is closer to the truth than previous accounts of the nobles.

In the play Oscar Wilde does not hold back in fears he would offend anyone he

wrote a play to entertain, but he also did an excellent job on reflecting how

the nobles are. Firstly he displays the character of Algernon, who is, quite

frankly, a languid in debt young man, but nevertheless he is still a noble.

With this character Wilde show’s the reader that all nobles aren’t perfect and

can be more flawed than the average person, and portrayed was the fact that the

rich and noble sometimes seem to abuse that position and end up in a deeper hole

than most others. Then there is his Aunt Augusta, who is a very powerful

character. Aunt Augusta in her own rights is the dominant persona in the play.

She holds the cards and plays them at her own discretion. Her character reveals

to the audience that in nobility there isn’t just the man who controls things,

but in many cases it is the female. She takes over the role of leader and makes

for an interesting view on the female aspect of nobility, but however there is

another aspect to female nobility, and that is inherent in Gwendolyn. She

possesses all the attributes of, plain and simply, a snob. She has the beauty,

the upbringing and the turned up nose of a noble. She symbolizes a part of

nobility that most people will not talk about, but however Wilde does talk and

better yet he reveals all of the little quirks of the noble class. In Gwendolyn

is the part of the class where, nobility has turned from respect and prestige

and into vanity. She has abused the prestige she has and turned into a vain

quest to be looked upon and desired. It seems that the Victorian class had

little class in the nobles, but however there is one last class to look at.

In the Victorian era a new class was being born that integrated the two

distinct upper class and lower class, that class was the Bourgeoisie, or the

middle class. Wilde put this new class into his play with grand success. They

were a class of business men and investors, and from that spurned the character

Jack. Jack was the character who not only symbolized the middle class, but he

also carried the turmoil of, “What class do I belong to?” He was from a lower

class community, but had worked his way up to infringing on noble status. He

wanted to marry a noble but at the same time he wanted to keep his roots, this

is excellent symbolism for actual class struggle, and when one views this from a

Marxist viewpoint, then this is a grand criticism to be made, because throughout

the whole play Jack ponders this question, and its symbolism is too great to be

missed. The entire play is a reflection upon class struggle. However his

struggle was not as difficult as he had assumed because in the end he discovers,

he is of noble birth, s thus leaving him with an easier decision, and moreover

this is another support for the nobility taking the easy way out, and not

striving to accomplish they’re goals with arduous work. All in all the classes

presented in this book lent itself to a Marxist criticism.

In the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” were many facets that

could have been criticized by numerous viewpoint’s, but however the most

thorough would be that of the Marxist view because it allows the reader to take

a step back and see the play for all it is, and it is true that the play’s main

plot line is that of s relationship between a man and woman, but however the

underlying real issue is that of their class and society. The play makes a

great example for a Marxist criticism on the effect of classes on literature.

Wilde’s own wit and intellect make for an excellent view of the classes of the

previous era. It is a work that will be a not only viewed as a comedic triumph,

but also as a social one as well.


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