Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Question Four: The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest: on wit

You'll notice that Wilde's writing (and not only this play... all of his writing) is absolutely dripping with wit, irony, puns, and sarcasm. How does this affect the play and how does it affect your reading of it? Think back (if you were on the field trip to see this play at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater last fall) to when you saw the play--what reactions did you have to the witty dialogue when the play was actually performed? How does this differ from your reading of the work? How would the play be different without this element? Consider these questions as you express your feelings about Wilde's witty writing (alliteration, anyone?) style.

You will respond to this question by leaving a comment on this post. 
Responses should be at least 250 words each.
Remember: you must respond to at least 4 questions per novel. 
Extra credit will be awarded if you respond to more than 4 questions.

*and remember, this is a blog--write with good English and use your inner intellectual, but speak casually!


  1. Wilde’s wit is what made his play so enjoyable. Since I went to see the play early in my junior year, I kept referring back to it while I read the play over again. The wit was definitely more blatant to me since I was expecting it. The wit keeps the meaning kind of hidden because it just comes across as humorous play to read—but every play has an underlying meaning. The sarcasm points to all the irony portrayed in this book. The very fact that both men claim to be earnest is extremely ironic! Neither of them are truly earnest: neither personality nor name wise. The play would definitely be more serious and less enjoyable without the sarcasm and wit that Wilde drowns his work in. Reading the play made it much easier for me to focus on the sarcasm, though. The actual play being acted out moved to quickly to be able to meditate on the wit, irony, and sarcasm of the play. I love that Wilde is so dramatic with his writing. One of my favorite parts is when Cecily explain to Algernon that they have been engaged since before they met… AND she had broken it off for a couple of days. How ridiculous is this girl?! She definitely borders on the psycho attached girlfriend meme. “Invites you to surprise party…wedding!” Yep. Definitely attached girlfriend meme. But this wit is what makes the play so enjoyable. Wilde has a way with sarcasm and irony, and it ties the play together perfectly. Everything revolves around the importance of being earnest, and the irony in that.

  2. “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand,” - Mark Twain
    Everyone can argue whether mystery, or adventure, maybe even drama is the best genre, but comedy is universal. Just about any mystery, adventure, and drama have borrowed scenes with comedy. Wit and humor has a way of bringing everyone together. Laughter is a universal language. Like you said, The Importance of Being Earnest is full of wit, irony, puns, and sarcasm. Using multiple different styles of humor insures that everyone’s own personal preference of comedy is covered. According to (NO! Don’t even think it. It just popped up first in Google when I typed in “The types of sense of humor”) there are ten different types of humor each person could have and not have.
    1. Laugh at life humor
    2. Bonding in the moment humor
    3. Slap stick comedy
    4. Sarcasm
    5. Self-deprecating humor
    6. Dry humor
    7. Witty humor
    8. Jokes at other’s expense kind of humor
    9. “Bathroom” humor
    10. Quirky cultural references.
    Most of those are self explanatory. It’s very interesting to see all the different kinds of humor someone could have. Some might have more than one, and others might just have one. Other people might greatly find some kinds of humor offensive. So when writing good humor, there is a fine line between funny, and just plain “crude-n-rude”. Appealing to all the styles of humor without turning off anyone is very difficult to do. Luckily, Oscar Wilde is very talented and wrote an extraordinarily funny and amusing story. Where Wilde’s story falters is in what we would call a generational gap. Basically, where the general appreciation of humor by the majority the public was in the 1890’s-early 1900’s is completely different from where humor is at now. Humor and comedy changes with the times and culture, what was funny back then isn’t as funny now. For example one of the oldest jokes is traced back to 3,500 years ago. A student from ancient Babylon wrote six jokes on a tablet (yep, I did a lot of research for this blog question. Extra credit?), “The deflowered girl did not become pregnant. The undeflowered girl became pregnant. What is it? (Drum roll please…) Auxiliary forces.” I know right? Totally have no idea what this even means. Didn’t laugh? Why? Generational gap. If you got the joke and I’m just stupid, please let me know. Even so, with a changing humor to contend with, Wilde still has managed to keep his writings current. I unfortunately did not go on the field trip to see this play because I wasn’t cool enough to go. (Great example of sarcasm, and self-deprecating humor!) Now I wish I would have gone. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I understood most of the humor and the generational gap didn’t affect me too bad. The story was fun and entertaining. Keep em comin’!

  3. When we saw the play at the theater I was very well done with lots of humor. While I was reading I thought about the play and the way the humor and sarcasm helped it along. Without these satiric, humorous, and ironic elements the play might not have been so easy to watch or read. I find that when an author adds humorous elements they are doing it to tie into the story and create an even more dynamic story line. When I read the story I picked up on many of the ironic and satiric elements of the story. Someone might say the humor itself may take away from the overall message of the play and its really deep meaning, but I think it’s just another way to present it and make it fun. In fact the sarcasm and humor made it easier for me to focus. Because I was more into the play because of the humor I was listening more and playing more attention while reading. It got me to catch the next bit of sarcasm or his next witty joke. The use of these devices in any work could create elements that just add to it. I will admit that some works are not meant for comedy, but I personally have not read many thongs don’t have some small amount of these elements mixed in with the story. Wilde must have been an amazing fun person to be around with all the jokes he throws into his writing.

  4. I think that reading this play beforehand would've made watching it so much more enjoyable. When I was watching the play I was trying to decipher all of the characters and that took away from the humor of the play. I couldn’t fully enjoy the comedic side of the play because I didn’t know the characters well enough. However, when I read the play I could analyze the meaning thoroughly. This made reading the play a breeze for me. In the depiction of the play, the witty banter happened very quickly so it was harder to digest all at once. It was easier to just forget about what was said than actually try to understand everything completely. After reading the play, I felt a deeper appreciation for Wilde's writing. Wilde's wit just jumps out at you on paper. It actually made it easier for me to focus on the dialogue because I was actually interested in what I was reading. It made me want to read more from Oscar Wilde. Whenever I read the play I could mentally adapt to what I was reading and I could create my own version of what the play might look like in my head. I feel like I comprehended his sarcastic humor much better through reading the play. The play would be terrible if it didn't have so many puns and sarcastic comments. I mean, isn’t that what defines the play as a whole? It is, in fact, his fantastic sense of humor that made this play an easy, enjoyable read.

  5. I enjoyed the wit and sarcasm Wilde included in the play more so watching it than reading it. I saw the sarcasm more in watching the play than reading it because it was easier to notice it with actors acting the parts out. The wit and sarcasm made reading the play easier and it made reading the book seem like it only took me a few minutes to read. Without all the sarcasm reading and watching this play would have been unbearable and it probably wouldn’t be known as a classic. Wilde’s witty writing is what makes this play a classic. I liked the way Wilde wrote the play because it made it an interesting read. The sarcasm, wit and irony are a very important part of the play without it I don’t think Wilde would have been able to tell his story effectively. The Importance of Being Earnest depends on the sarcasm to keep the reader interested in continuing to reading the play. It is not a dull play it is more of an interesting upbeat story that flows very well. The play relies on Wilde’s sarcasm and wit and would be nothing without it. I enjoyed Wilde’s writing style in this play both reading and watching it. I noticed the little things better watching the play then reading it but I also saw the play before I read it and I found it more interesting watching it than reading it. The Importance of Being Earnest revolves around Wilde’s sarcasm and would be nothing without it.

  6. Oscar Wilde’s writing style in this play utilizes a ton of wit, sarcasm etc. Almost every set of dialog contains some sort of humorous jab or silly non sequitur, underlining the shallow, ditziness of his characters. For instance, at one point Jack asks if Gwendolen will wait for him and she replies “If you’re not too long, I’ll wait for my whole life.” There are also more pointed instances of sarcasm or wit that I assume were meant to critique the culture of the time. It’s also possible that Wilde is poking fun at marriage and the in-love as a whole. He seems to be saying that “falling in love” can be silly and irrational, superficial even. His characters certainly are. For me these witty sections made the play much more enjoyable. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what the play would have been like if Wilde hadn’t used this style, sense the main premise of the play is so humorous and ridiculous. When I began reading the play, I thought that it wouldn’t be nearly as funny as watching the play live, because tone and inflection are so much easier to interpret when the play is actually being acted. In some sense that was true, but I also found that when reading I could more easily catch the more subtle jokes and witticisms. It was also helpful to be able to reread or annotate the written play, because, when it was acted live, I often spaced out or something and missed a funny quote or interesting comment.

  7. When we took the field trip to the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre to see this play, I couldn’t help but notice how funny it was. Now that I have read the play, I realize how well the actors portrayed the sarcasm and puns that take place throughout the play. One of the main objects of sarcasm is when Algernon talks about going to visit his “friend” Mr. Bunbury. It is obvious that this is not a real person, but instead he is talking about going gallivanting or traipsing. Another part of the play where there are a lot of sarcastic comments, is when Cecily and Gwendolyn find out Jack and Algernon’s real identities. Like when they went up into the house to talk about what had happened and how they were going to handle the situation. Also, when Gwendolyn and Cecily came back to where Jack and Algernon were and they were still talking about what they were going to do even though the guys were standing there listening. For instance when they were talking about not wanting to be the first ones to speak but they were still speaking in front of Jack and Algernon. The use of wit also made the play more interesting and made me want to keep reading. I have never been one for reading but I kind of enjoyed reading the play because of how funny some of the parts were. For example, Algernon really loved Cecily, who was Jacks ward, and when he asked Jack if he could marry her Jack said no but Lady Brackwell completely went against Jack’s commands and encouraged Algernon and Cecily’s relationship. There is no question that Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest writers of all time.

  8. Personally, this was my favorite summer reading book for this year. Nearly every comment made by the characters is riddled with humor, sarcasm, irony, puns, etc. Unlike The Great Gatsby, this play made me not want to stop reading it, because it put a smile on my face. Without this humorous take at the book, it simply would lose its ability to draw in both an audience and a reader. Since it is such a sarcastic and ironic play, the actors have an hard job. Their facial expressions and tone of voice have to match up with Oscar Wilde's original impression of the play. It can be challenging, due to the fact that the characters go from sarcastic to witty to foolish in a matter of seconds. I personally thought the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre did an amazing job on this play. From tonal quality, to facial expressions, to reactions and interactions with each other, the actors showed the true reason that it is important to be Earnest.I noticed, though, that it was a lot easier to pick up on each and every joke and pun when I was reading instead of watching the play. It was easier simply because I could read it at my own pace, and backtrack to read over a joke if I don't immediately pick up on it. Without the element of humor riddled throughout this play, the book would simply lose its impact on both the readers, the audience, and on literary history. The play shows in a humorous way that love can be foolish, and what better way to show foolish love then by writing a silly and funny play?

  9. The Importance of Being Earnest, what a dull book! No, that was sarcasm! Obviously, this playwright acclaims its popularity from its satirical and witty plot and commentary. I absolutely loved the book, but I didn’t get the chance to attend the play. However from seeing other plays and reading its book, there is a definite difference in my personal reactions. First and for most, why is it that seeing or hearing a joke in person is so much funnier especially coming from a person, than reading it in a school required play. The answer in my opinion is that it’s much more enjoyable hearing it in another voice and visualizing the joke, through actual people. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read witty passages, and you can never go wrong with good-old-fashioned puns, but hearing them; having actual verbal communication is priceless. Sure reading can inspire imagination and turn the “rusty-gears up-stairs”, but why not sit back and let the actors do the job for you! The playwright is structured around this witty plot, and is undoubtedly not a seriously intended piece. So, to take away the wit and irony would ruin the fluidity of the piece, and probably wouldn’t be as interesting to the normal, well “semi-normal” high school student. To sum it up: The Importance of Being Earnest was never meant to be dug through and pondered upon, but to be enjoyed and laughed at. By now, you probably thinking you’ve had enough of my attempt at being witty, ergo I conclude.
    SIDE NOTE: I was experimenting with this answer! :P

  10. The Importance of Being Earnest is one of the most ironic and sarcastic things I have ever read besides things my friends write. Because Oscar Wilde wrote it this way, it made the play and the book that much more enjoyable to watch and to read. If it was just about a guy who lies and then gets found out it would have been very boring and I probably would not have read it and would have fallen asleep during the play, but I didn’t. While watching the play in Orlando last year, I burst out laughing at several scenes that had witty banter and sarcastic conversations and I could actually get into it. It is a lot easier to get the sense of the characters and what the author is trying to get across when you can see it right in front of you like it is actually happening. Since I had already seen the play, the book was a little more boring, but it was still very humorous at points that I had forgotten or were not acted out. Reading it was a little better though because I could stop, put it down, and take a break from that world. Then once I got back to the wittiness, sarcasm, and puns I was brought right back into the comicalness of it all. Plus, if Oscar Wilde had not made it sarcastic, the name Ernest would have gone to great waste and would seem a bit strange or annoying.

  11. First of all, this diction makes for a super entertaining read. Without this element, the play would be a great bit harder to get through, and most likely, less popular. Oscar Wilde wanted to spread a message. And as we coat our dogs` pills in peanut butter to make them look tasty, so Wilde filled his pages with delicious humor. And, after the humor is gone, we do realize, "wow... there is an importance to being Earnest." Secondly, and more importantly, this diction is necessary in fully engaging us with our characters. If they spoke with the same pompousness as their ladies, we wouldnt know them as quite the hams they are. So, along with the plot twists, silly tone, and ill-advised character choices, its only fitting that Wilde would include a diverse array of puns and play of words. As for the irony, it is absolutely essential in conveying the author`s message. Without the irony, in order for Wilde to compose a play about the importance of being earnest, it would have been a play void of any humor, perhaps about the earnest life of a glasswear salesman making his way to the top of the industry. You see, for Wilde`s great plan to work, it was necessary to load the plot full of word plays and irony. Otherwise, it wouldnt be nearly as entertaining, thus absent of an impactfull message, thus not nearly as popular as it is today. And why dont you count those fabulously written words...

  12. Wit, irony, puns, and sarcasm all are literary devices that make “The Importance of Being Earnest” particularly humorous and extremely enjoyable. These devices used by Wilde are placed in order to give the play a comedic tone and a light and fun plot. Witty phrases in this story liven the characters and give depth to each aspect of the play. The irony of Jack’s posed name, which actually turned out to be his real name, made the plot circular and relative to the moral of the story, which was to be (lowercased) earnest,
    These interesting and funny tools the writer used in the dialogue and plot enables the play to move along quickly with much enjoyment to the reader or viewer. Wit and sarcasm certainly made this play easy to read and follow along.
    I did not go on the trip to see this play performed, however, from other plays that I have seen, I have noticed that it is preferable to read witty passages rather than see them performed because I am able to imagine situations to be as dramatic or as nonchalant as I would ideally want to see them.
    If this play did not have sarcasm, puns, irony, or witty expressions, the whole tone of the play would be different. It would almost seem dreary and uninteresting considering that the plot is primarily about heavy subjects like marriage, status, and a lost child!

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