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Profundity under the Guise of Sumptuousness

Author ChenFei
Tutor SongHuiLing
School Hebei Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords comedy modernism theme
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
Downloads 21
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Oscar Wilde, known as a brilliant British man of letters, has a marvelous but short life. His reputation as a man of complicated character rests considerably on his wit, elegance and deviance. He is not a prolific writer but exhibits his genius in nearly all forms of literature: drama, novel, poetry, fairy tale, literary criticism and political essay. It is the four society comedies that earn him fame as the literary giant of the day: Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). All these plays make a great success and win him great popularity.The Victorian Era is a period of remarkable change, which is characterized by urbanization, industrialization, progress, prosperity and peace. It also boasts of its high tone of morality, known as the Victorian morality, which upholds fast and hard rules such as earnestness, the distinction of good and evil, and intolerance of crime. By the end of the 19th century, however, the rigid morality turned out to be a block to the social and individual development. As a reaction to utilitarianism and philistinism, aestheticism began to prevail in England. Wilde, under the influence of Walter Pater and John Ruskin, became the spokesman for this movement. Not only in his writing did he show his aesthetic ideas, but also he put what he advocated into practice in his personal life. His insistence upon the autonomy of art and the individuality of artist makes him a precursor of modernism. His society comedies are dotted with witty dialogues and paradoxical epigrams, which are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Under the guise of hilarity, Wilde severely attacks and subverts the hypocritical Victorian morality and discloses the inner loneliness and agony of the characters.The thesis analyses the modernist themes embodied in his comedies. It comprises three chapters: Chapter One studies the sense of alienation and loneliness under the guise of hilarity and elegance; Chapter Two delves into Wilde’s subversion of the Victorian morality and social mores, mainly of good and evil and of earnestness; Chapter Three analyses the absurdity permeating in the comedies, mainly in love and marriage and their way of life.

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