People in the upper class accomplish nothing with their time and in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” all of the upper class characters exhibit this. Algernon for example, spends his time eating and pretending to be another person. His wealth allows him to spend time not only in the city, but also in the country as a person of his own creation, Bunbury. Not to mention, every where he goes food is always present. First there is cucumber sandwiches, which were gotten for his Aunt and he himself ate them all. Then there are muffins, over which he fights with Jack over. In fact, he is so fond of food that he believes them something that one must be very serious about. “Algernon: Yes, but you must be serious about it (dining). I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them” (Wilde 1431). The importance of this quote is that Wilde wants to show the reader that so far, Algernon has not been serious about anything and then see him being totally serious about something very unimportant. This is the authors way of showing how shallow Algernon actually is. Ernest/Jack like Algernon also has a dual identity that allows him to come to the city from the country. Unlike Jack, instead of doing this to get away from relatives, he does it to get away from his many responsibilities in the country and comes under the name of someone else to see Gwendolen. In this whole play, we never see Algernon do any sort of work and because of this, Algernon is short money: “(Jack):I was very nearly offering a large reward. (Algernon):Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to be more than usually hard up” (Wilde 1428). Jack on the other hand does participate in some sort of work but he is uninterested enough in it to take the time to go be another person.
No upper class person in this play cares about education and while Cecily is being education, we see her not caring at all about it. Lady Bracknell even believes that there is no use of modern education and that England’s education system produces no effect, something she is glad of. She views education as dangerous to the upper class and approves of Jack when he says he knows nothing. Ms. Prism on the other hand, cares about Cecily’s education, but she is part of the middle class.
Wilde’s purpose in writing this play is to show the idleness of the upper class. They spend their time posing as other people, participating in gluttony, and being happy in their ignorance. This is important because the upper class is something most people strive for and yet when looking at what they do to contribute to society, it isn’t much. The upper class is, in a way, glorified by those who are not in it and yet there isn’t much to praise.