Explore the opening of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ paying particular attention to the range of attitudes towards marriage. In The Importance of Being Earnest, various attitudes are explored by the main characters, which range in support of marriage to attacking the idea of marriage. The play starts with Algernon playing the piano. He enters the scene, and asks lane what he thought of his playing. In response to Lane’s compliment, Algernon replies with ‘I don’t play accurately’. This shows us a decadent view.
This could be suggested because Algernon was playing how he wanted to, and did not care for anyone else opinion on the matter. Alternatively, it could be argued that he’s playing for art’s sake. This was a saying that circulated during the Period, that meant that some art has no meaning or contextual importance, it is there just because the artist, playwright or author can create it. This could be suggested that Algernon meant this when he said ‘I don’t play accurately’ as he was playing just because he could.
He goes onto say ‘that anyone can play accurately’ which enhances the view as it suggests he’s playing the piano inaccurately because it makes him an individual, and stand out from the crowd. Marriage is one of the key issues and topics that are argued in the opening of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. A different view is expressed by most characters, and issues of the time are brought regarding marriage. To being with the first view of marriage is expressed by Algernon. ‘Is marriage as demoralising as that? What Algernon could be suggesting by saying this is that Algernon, believing he is a man about town, that marriage is a drag or a tie, and that Lane is being caged in by marriage. A different view is then presented by Lane, who was married. ‘I believe it IS very pleasant state, sir. ’ This is a contrast to Algernon’s view as Lane believes that marriage is not demoralising, as Algernon put it, but more of a meaningful relationship that is pleasant between a man and woman.
Also Wilde, the Playwright could have used these characters to show the difference of opinion between classes, with Lane expressing the lower classes opinion on marriage, and Algernon expressing the upper class opinion of marriage. Later on in the act, after the arrival of Jack, Algernon expresses yet another view. ‘A woman never marries a man she flirts with’. This is regarding Gwendolen and Jack’s romance. This suggests that Algernon believes that a woman flirting is almost a paradox, that she likes the man she is flirting with but has no intention of marrying him.
This could be seen as controversial view at the time as people believe as ladies of the upper classes were expected act responsibly but flirting with men who are not possible suitors could be seen as inappropriate for a women of the upper class, and could be viewed as a activity of the lower classes, and even relate to prostitutes, who have to flirt with men to get work. Another opinion expressed is that of marriage being almost a business deal. This view is expressed by lady Bracknell. After Jack proposes to Gwendolen, she questions him about his background and also his wealth.
This suggests that the upper classes are being mocked by Wilde. He is mocking them by suggesting that it’s a luxury the rich can afford to wait for until the richest suitor for their child can be found and married off to, so that they can carry on their life of riches and relaxation. In conclusion, Wilde is suggesting that the upper classes not regard marriage as something of love, but rather of business, to generate them more money, to keep their lives of luxury. Also that the lower classes have a better view on marriage than the upper class as the regard it for love and something they want to do, not to make them richer.