The country characters are contrasted against the characters from the town. The individuals who lived in the country were portrayed as being simple, righteous and unintelligent by people living in towns in Victorian England. However in this essay I will discuss how Wilde depicts both groups in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. The first time the setting changes to the countryside, the scene begins with Cicely and Miss Prism (her governess) starting a German lesson. This gives the impression that the majority of Cecily’s time is occupied with learning.
Which contradicts the impression we may have about people from the country being uneducated. Gwendolyn also adds to this by saying ‘Mamma whose views on education are remarkably strict’ however there is a paradox to our expectations when her mother states that she does not agree with ‘anything that tampers with natural ignorance’ and that ‘education produces no effect’. When Gwendolyn meets Cicely they both end up thinking that they are engaged to Earnest Worthing, when they discuss this they treat marriage as an extremely trivial matter by saying ‘Their must be some slight error,’ and ‘some misconception’.
Earlier on Gwendolyn also states that ‘men propose for practice’ again trivialising the matter. ‘People who live entirely for pleasure are usually (unmarried). ‘This shows Victorian societies views on marriage being unpleasant. Wilde associates being wicked or bad with enjoyment as shown in these lines ‘I have been very bad in my own small way’ ‘I don’t think that you should be proud of that, through I am sure it must have been very pleasant’. Whenever Jack would have to go to town it would be to deal with his wicked brother.
Also Cecily describes Algy visiting Bunbury as ‘leaving the pleasures of London, for a bed of pain’. Cicely says that she wishes ‘Uncle Jack would allow … his brother, to come down here some time, we might have a good influence over him. ‘ This builds an impression of good morals in the country. ‘ Being polite was extremely important in society during the Victorian era. However Wilde often uses extreme politeness when characters are angry for example as Cecily and Gwendolen anger heightens so does their politeness. Although there are subtle puns ‘Oh, flowers are as common here as people in London.
There is often sarcasm ‘I am satisfied’ … ‘How extremely kind of you, Lady Bracknell! ‘ ‘Never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon, only people who cannot get into it do that. ‘ This line shows the important it is to make it clear to others that you are in society. Gwendolen says ‘I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been wildly different. ‘
This displays how people from the town viewed the country as being beneath them. ‘I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist in the country, if anyone who is anyone does. Jack is the character who connects the town and the country; he embodies all pretentions and upholds yet defies them in his double life. Jack always tries to take the moral high ground with Algy however he completely contradicts himself as he is just as bad. Jack speaking about Algy ‘I do not approve of his moral character. I suspect him of being untruthful. ‘ However Jack has said ‘It is very painful for me to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have been reduced to such a painful position’.