Historical Context in The Importance of Being Earnest
The Victorian Era: The Importance of Being Earnest humorously confronts the shallowness and hypocrisy of Victorian society. Lady Bracknell’s rejection of Jack as a suitable match for Gwendolyn reflects the aristocracy’s emphasis on family prestige; Jack is unworthy because he was adopted and no one knows whether or not his biological relatives are respectable. Until the 18th and 19th centuries, one’s family name carried more weight than wealth. With the advent of the free market, however, formerly unimportant families began acquiring wealth surpassing that of noble families. Wilde suggests that society’s preoccupation with wealth and family line distracts from more important qualities, such as character.
Historical Context Examples in The Importance of Being Earnest:
"I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact..." See in text (Act I)
"Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner..." See in text (Act I)
"More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read..." See in text (Act I)
"Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with..." See in text (Act I)