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Biplob Prodhan
  • 3 weeks ago
  • 19
In what sense is The Importance of Being Earnest an artificial comedy (or a farcical comedy)?

Comment on the absurdity in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest

Ans. The Importance of Being Earnest is a modern play but it belongs to the genre of comedy of manners that flourished in England during the Restoration period. This kind of comedy gives us h a picture of artificial society given to immorality, affectation and fashions. However, The Importance of Being Earnest is free from indecency, obscenity or immorality. It is characterized by exaggeration and extravagance both in its plot and dialogue. The keynote of the play is absurdity which turns it into a farce.

Most of the situations in The Importance of Being Earnest are absurd and ludicrous, raising laughter of audience. The central situation of Jack’s being found in a large handbag by Mr. Thomas Cardew in the cloak-room of the Victoria railway station in London is in itself a funny story and so it is farcical. Then we are told that Mr. Cardew named the boy Worthing because at that time he had with him a first-class train ticket to Worthing and later left his grand- daughter Cecily under his care. This was the result of the carelessness of Miss Prism who absent-mindedly put her three-volume novel in the perambulator and the baby in the handbag, which she deposited in the clock-room of Victoria station. Now it is impossible for us to believe that anybody, no matter how absent-minded, can commit a blunder like this. There is nothing absurd about Mr. Thomas Cardew’s discovery of the foundling, but it absurd that he should have named the child Worthing on the grounds that he had a first class railway ticket to Worthing, a seaside resort.

When Jack proposes to Lady Bracknell and sincerely says that he has no parents because he was found in a handbag, the situation is hilarious. Lady Bracknell then advises him “to produce at any rate one parent of either sex”. When Jack expresses his inability to manage that, Lady Bracknell turns down his proposal of marriage to Gwendolen. When Miss Prism gives an account of how she had mistakenly deposited the handbag containing the infant in the cloak- room of Victoria station, Jack jumps to the conclusion that he is the illegitimate son of Miss Prism. He is ready to forgive his mother, for her indiscretion in her youth and forgives her. Here we cannot suppress our hilarious laughter.

Further Cecily is fascinated by the wild reputation that the fictitious Ernest enjoys and his curly hair. The situation is undoubtedly absurd but it gives rise to witty remarks and evokes laughter, but laughter only of the superficial kind. Thus absurd and trivial issues give rise to momentous occasions in the life of London’s high society.

Thus the entire play is light-hearted, full of banter and verbal skirmishes, sarcasm, wit epigrams and humour.


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