A get out of social situations he doesn’t

A recurring theme in Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is the hypocritical
tendencies of those in the Upper-class Victorian Society. Wilde uses puns,
paradoxical situations and inversions to expose the hypocritical tendencies. This
can be seen in the way Jack lives a “double-life” and Algernon’s use of an
invalid friend. While trying to get his cigarette case back from Algernon, Jack
admits “In order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger
brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in Albany, and gets into the most
dreadful scrapes.” Essentially Jack is trying to hold up this reputation that
he is a respectable Victorian Gentleman but creates an almost “alter ego” so that
he may throw his morals out the window and have fun. Algernon, not any less
hypocritical of his “gentlemanly” persona, creates a fake friend, Bunbury, so
that he may get out of social situations he doesn’t want to be apart of. The lies
these two men inflict show the hypocrisy in their personalities.

In addition to the characters that lie, there
are characters who often say or do one thing but tend mean or do something else.
Gwendolen says
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” To
someone with morals, “sincerity” would be of more importance than “style” so
Gwendolen’s inversion of these words is extremely silly. Another backwards
character is Lady Bracknell who at first does not think Cecily is worthy of
being married to Algernon. However, once Lady Bracknell realizes that Cecily comes
from a wealthy background she immediately approves and encourages the
relationship between Cecily and Algernon. Ironically, she does not approve of
Jack for her daughter Gwendolyn even though money alone was enough for her to
approve of the match between Algernon and Cecily.

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Later in the play Lady Bracknell claims to disapprove
of “mercenary marriages” but also exclaims “When I married Lord Bracknell I had
not fortune of any kind. But I never dreamed of allowing that to stand in my
way.” This only exposes her hypocritical personality even further. Lady
Bracknell’s hypocritical state of mind towards marriage is very ironic and
gives more insight into the confusing idea of Victorian social morals. Dr. Chausible’s opinion on marriage also inverts
in a matter of seconds, similarly to Lady Bracknell.  He does not agree with the idea of marriage
simply because “Primitive Church did not condone marriage” however by the end
of the play it seems he will marry Miss Prism. Through such inversions and
ironic situations Wilde brings up the hypocrisy of Victorian social norms in The Importance of Being Earnest.