Module 4 Product

By Colby Bond

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Argumentative Thesis

The social codes of Victorian Society are unacceptable and need to be changed. Although rather strict morals and ideals are meant to be upheld, the society is extremely hypocritical in it's actions. The blatant hypocrisy paired with the conservative views that are held are indubitably holding this society back.

Meaningful Quotations from "The Importance of Being Earnest"

  • "Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility." (1.17)
This quote spoken by Algernon blatantly displays the hypocrisy in the society. He states that the lower classes of people are useless if they don't set a good example even though the higher classes are extremely corrupt and do not have good morals.

  • "I'm sure the programme will be delightful, after a few expurgations. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People always seem to think that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse. But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so". (1.132)

This quote is spoken by Bracknell and illustrates the conservative views in this society. She makes it come off that French music doesn't sound as good, but in actuality, she is just refusing to play French music for political reasons, which I find rather closed-minded.

  • "Lady Bracknell: As a matter of form, Mr. Worthing, I had better ask you if Miss Cardew has any little fortune? Jack: Oh! about a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the Funds. That is all. Goodbye, Lady Bracknell. So pleased to have seen you. Lady Bracknell: [Sitting down again] A moment, Mr. Worthing. A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her." (3.69-71)
This quotation displays the strict portion of society in how the elder is in control of the younger person's marriage and also displays how much society is unfortunately based on wealth. She doesn't want them to marry until she finds out that Miss Cardew has a fortune, which is shallow.

  • "Algernon: I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die." (1.222)
This quotation is based on Algernon speaking poorly of his family and how he essentially wants them to die because they are nuisances to him and he would gain money. His position on his family shows that Victorian Society needs to rethink family ideals.

  • "Miss Prism: [Calling] Cecily, Cecily! Surely such a utilitarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather Moulton's duty than yours? Especially at a moment when intellectual pleasures await you. Your German grammar is on the table" (2.1).
Through this statement spoken by Miss Prism, one can see the difference in treatment between classes of wealth. Since Cecily is more educated and richer than Moulton, Miss Prism believes that Moulton should be watering the flowers. Treating others differently based on their education and wealth should not be done.

  • "Jack: [Slowly and hesitatingly] Gwendolen – Cecily – it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind. However, I will tell you quite frankly that I have no brother Ernest. I have no brother at all" (2.348).
This quotation brings up how Jack had created a fake brother which caused quite a mess. He lied to everyone he knew about this brother and now it has come back to bite him so he has no choice but to tell the truth. This displays that lying was obviously prevalent in society and thus should be fixed.

  • "Algernon: Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don't think it right" (1.47).
This quotation brings up a societal standard of how girls don't tend to marry the men that they flirt with. It appears that people flirt with whoever they feel and not necessarily who they genuinely like, which might not be right.

  • "Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion – has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now – but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society" (1.200-214).
This quotation displays how the Victorian Society relies so heavily on bloodlines and the fact that Jack was found born in a handbag at a train station is absolutely unacceptable according to societal standards. Even though it was not his fault, he is still at a loss because of it.

  • "Chasuble: Both these gentlemen have expressed a desire for immediate baptism.
    Lady Bracknell: At their age? The idea is grotesque and irreligious! Algernon, I forbid you to be baptized. I will not hear of such excesses" (III.111-112).
The religious conservatism found in society is displayed in this passage when Algernon and Jack are trying to get baptized. Lady Bracknell does not believe that they should be because they are too old. The closed-minded conservative viewpoints being displayed are things that need to be changed.

  • "Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . . And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing." (1.172)
Lady Bracknell essentially states that a young woman could not possibly undertake the responsibility of getting engaged and it should be a surprise. This sexism and unwillingness to believe in the abilities of people because of their age and race is rampant in Victorian Society and needs to change.

Meaningful Quotations from the Literary Criticism

  • "Lady Bracknell links education of the poor with social unrest, fearing that the educated masses might forget their place and reject hierarchical class structure." (Schmidt)
This quotation from the Literary Criticism article displays the societal standard of how the classes are split by wealth. Ironically, the upper class are at social unrest even though Lady Bracknell associates it with the lower classes because she thinks she is above it.

  • "Marriage, however, remained most women's primary goal and occupation." (Schmidt)
This quotation displays the sexism of Victorian Society and how women aren't meant to do anything besides marry a man. This should be changed because women should be able to do whatever they want to do, and not have to worry about a terrible societal standard such as that.

  • "Finally, Miss Prism's conversation about christening the poor reveals an underlying anxiety about the sexuality and population growth of the working classes." (Schmidt)
This quotation displays once again the differences between classes but also the ignorance of the upper class. Miss Prism believes that the poor need to be christened and it appears to be scary that they are growing in population. The fact that the lower class gets treated so much worse is unacceptable.

Visual Representation


Based on many quotes from both The Importance of Being Earnest as well as the literary criticism article entitled "An essay for The Importance of Being Earnest", it is clear that the social codes of this time period need to be changed. With the treatment of the lower classes by the upper classes, the hypocrisy in the upper class, the religious conservatism, sexist ideals, and all the conservative ideals in general, things need to be fixed. In regards to setting yourself apart, it is clear that Jack does so with how he creates an alternate personality and says its his brother, and then lies to everyone about it. Not everyone would do such a thing, so he most definitely is setting himself apart.

Works Cited

Schmidt, Arnold. "An essay for The Importance of Being Earnest." Drama for Students. Detroit: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 May 2015.

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. New York: Dover Publications, 1990. Print.