In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, humor functions through the use of Characterization and the social satire of the Victorian period.
Characterization is the method an author uses to reveal or describe characters and their various personalities. Satire is a literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satirical attack. These two comical devices are part of the nature of humor, which is the concept that a persons flaws are funny. An example is if a person was to stand on stage and one was to point out their physical and physiological flaws in front of a big crowd.
Of course everyone in the crowd would be laughing because that is the nature of humor. This is what the whole play, The Importance of Being Earnest is based around. The play also works perfectly on how it is setup in the beginning and brought through to become a very funny play in the end. Oscar Wildes use of Characterization is primarily shown through the character Lady Bracknell. Lady Bracknell is a very stubborn character who is a little overprotective of her daughter Gwendolen.
Lady Bracknells character is significantly exposed when she is questioning Jack before he is allowed by her to engage Gwendolen, I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young menhowever, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. (Pg. 12) By using the characterization of Lady Bracknell, Oscar Wilde creates a larger comedic affect in the play. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde uses the character Algernon to depict Satire. Algernon is a very arrogant, self-centered, and hypocritical character who puts blame on anyone but himself. The satirical affect of his character is placed blatantly on his problem of over-eating.
If Algernon has eaten something that he was not supposed to, one of his servants takes him right out of trouble by making an excuse. Here Algernon is being hypocritical by telling Jack not to eat a cucumber sandwich and then eating one himself. Please dont touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. Takes one and eats it. By using the satire of Algernon, Oscar Wilde constructs a much more comical play.
Throughout the play, Oscar Wilde uses Satire and Characterization to make the comical affect work perfectly. The satire in the play would not work correctly if Oscar Wilde did not make the characterization of each character accurate. If Algernon was not arrogant and snobby, then there would be no satire on his part. If Lady Bracknell was not over-protective and mulish, then there would be no satire on her part. The play would not work correctly if these two characters were not portrayed precisely and were not satirical. Along with satire and characterization, the wit of Oscar Wilde formulates an immense humor affect throughout the play.
If Oscar Wilde did not have Algernon over-hear Jack and Gwendolen talking about where Jacks country house is located, then the play would not work out at all. It is Oscar Wildes wit that makes The Importance of Being Earnest work superiorly. In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, characterization, satire, and wit correspond perfectly to create an ideal comical affect. This is mainly done through the characters Algernon and Lady Bracknell who through the wit of Oscar Wilde generate the perfect comical play. .