The Importance of Being Ernest
From the paper:
Before Oscar Wilde became famous for his writing, he was famous for his tongue. In the early years of his career, Wilde was best known as an articulate and witty social gadfly. He was the fashion-whore of polite British society. He insinuated himself calculatingly into the social life of ?the beautiful people.? H!is reputation was built around an elaborately outrageous fashion sense, a shocking wit and amusing repertoire of behaviors, and his blatant self-stylings as an art critic and aesthete. Through-out his social career, Wilde alternately flaunted and denied his homosexual tendencies. They were a part of his carefully groomed artistic image, an image from which he occasionally worked to distance himself. He did get married and father two sons, and when he was finally accused of sodomy, he fought the charges as libelous. Yet the reality of his sexual orientation, and its natural at-odds-with-society status, was never far from his work. Even his most hetero-centric works, such as the romantic satire The Importance of Being Ernest, are informed by the daily social strains of his barely closeted double life. The Importance of Being Ernest is, in fact, in many ways a prophetic, though optimistic, metaphor for Wilde?s life. He deals w!ith the hypocrisy and shallowness that ?modern? women and ?modern? social etiquette require from men. The story at once critiques the institution of marriage and the institution of ?polite society.? This play deals explicitly with the sacrifices and lies that must be committed in order to achieve acceptance in either marriage or society, and with the inevitable moment of truth when those lies are discovered.