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“An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant as the case may be” (Bracknell, 45).
Marriage is of supreme significance in the play; the above line was said by Lady Bracknell. The words show that marriage and the moral value that accompany it are always the key information in the play as they are presented by the characters. In the beginning of the play, Jack and Algernon are found discussing how marriage is presented in the contemporary world. They ask themselves about the relevance of an offer in marriage as to whether it is a delight or trade. This is when Lady Bracknell came in and said the above words to show that most of the characters in the play are eager to see morality employed in all sectors including marriage.
Lady Bracknell herself has a long list of bachelors and when she interviews Jack, she asks him questions that are related to marriage. The whole play seems to centre its morality on people who are living together with emphasis on their way of life. When Lane tries to answer the question about marriage, he confirms that it is a very enjoyable condition. Lane also had problems within himself as his own marriage had ended and now he was looking for the new meaning of the condition. Many of Lane’s words are considered as being not true. Later he gets to meet Cecil. He was taken by surprise by events as he falls in love with her, and now his early words are trusted beyond any doubts.
The moral virtue of marriage takes centre stage even in the life of Jack, as he tells Algernon that what is true should not be told to any good lady. This is totally a different view that is presented here by him as it was seen in his past sentiments. Later in the play, Jack is forced to apologize to Gwendolen, because she used to tell him the truth all the time, but he never believed it. It is with this point that the characters in the play are found to take morality serious, even to the point of apologizing when they realise a mistake has been made by them. Gwendolen forgives Jack, as she clearly understands that one day she will make changes in his life.
The issue of being straight is emphasized more than once in the play. In her own perspective, she is sceptical in view of men and marriage as a whole. The issue of marriage and morality, according to Lady Bracknell, gives out the idea of choice on the part all of those concerned about the situation. It is with this in mind that she is seen giving vital information in favour of the nature of all beings and the choices they are to make while living. Right living is important in marriage and outside marriage.
Algernon mentions the servants as the ones who are supposed to ensure that the standards of morality are up to date in the upper class in the society. Many characters think that reading material containing the sources that are detrimental to life should not be acceptable in the society. For Jack, having to read material about cigarette is not being gently at all. The Victorian society is said to have a code of conduct that ensures all the people are subject to the morals of the society.
For Wilde, the issue of morality is not important as people do not have the “dos” and “don’ts” of the society. For him the issues of “dos” and “don’ts” are a set of strong points that are placed together without any considerations. Characters in the play, including Jack, Gwendolen, Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism, are trying to inculcate moral standards into others, whereas they themselves are not conformed in the way they profess. This brings out the all irony of the play. The irony that is presented is the morality of their members and other people in the Victorian society as a whole.
The society has tried to inculcate this measure in their daily activities. Being earnest is the main agenda presented as it becomes a spoof to many of the characters in the play. Wilde is clear as he wants to bring about the issue of mockery: the characters are not consistent with their being earnest. The dishonesty in the issues of marriage and morality in the play are similar in the point of view of Jack and Algernon.
However, the two differ in the moral standards that they depict to themselves and others who are around them. The issues of morality losses its meaning when Jack gives false information about his brother. He informs his family members that his brother is dead. This is a lie that the family will never know about, but he and the readers are aware of the facts that surround the situation.
The issue of morality comes in the whole scenario as surprise, pleasant and unpleasant, as depicted from the phrase of Lady Bracknell. Jack personally mourns to ensure his deception is successful in the eyes of his family members and other people who surround him. Algernon and Cecil, on the other hand, give false information to other people to convince them of what is not actually true. This is deception of the highest order. Algernon is the real hero in the play: he makes sure that the deception is made to look realistic.
For them life is seen and acted like in a movie: they want to make it like a form of art and want to capture the heart of Wilde. The characters come up with situations that contradict the important moral issues of life. Wilde, on the other hand, has made the decision of making life an art as they seek to capture the attention of others with lies that cannot be sustained.
This brings out the issue of hypocrisy in the lives of the characters. In the play, the title is not followed, since the opposite is found to be taking place all the time. The total wellbeing of the Victorian society has not been able to get true meaning of morality as a whole. Gwendolen, on the other hand, perceives style to be superior to character as a whole. This indicates that moral issues are not taken seriously in the play by the characters.
The characters have been given the open choice to decide on how to operate concerning their moral values. The issue of marriage and morality are taken seriously in the play, as some are in love, while others are getting out of the circle of marriage. The total play shows that moral values are taken care of by some characters, while other characters are found to take for granted the moral values of society. The society as a whole is supposed to adhere to the set standards of the community. Gwendelon wants to get in a relationship with Ernest and does not want to know whether he is a man of moral standing. Morality in relation to marriage is emphasized in the whole play.