Monday, 9 August 2010

Through the looking-glass and The Importance of being Earnest: a book and a play containing complete and utter nonsense (in the best possible way!).

Dear reader,

Today I finished reading Lewis Caroll´s Through the Looking-glass and Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of being Earnest”. I had already read Alice in Wonderland and thought it would be a pity not to read the sequel, especially since I have The Complete Works of Lewis Caroll on my bookshelf. It is rather different from Alice in Wonderland in that she does not fall through a rabbit hole, but voluntarily goes through the mirror in the drawing room, which allows her to access what she calls the ‘looking-glass house’. Here she meets all types of creatures; though they primarily are chess pieces rather than cards. Again, imagination and nonsense prevail. None of the grown-ups ever make any sense in Caroll’s works, but that is not that odd seeing that to little children they hardly ever do.

I find myself to be rather cross with the mass media, as again they have managed to change an original story (which was perfectly fine to begin with!). In every movie which I have thus far seen of Alice in Wonderland they have managed to squeeze the story of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in together! We always encounter Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee who tell Alice ‘the tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter’. However, Dum and Dee only make an appearance in through the looking-glass and are never even mentioned in Alice in Wonderland. Also, I was surprised the find out that the famous Disney scene in which the queen of hearts scolds Alice for not bowing properly and tells hers her to open her “mouth a little wider when you speak and always say “your Majesty”, is actually one of the things the red queen (the chess piece) tells Alice in Through the Looking-glass. It makes you wonder if they perhaps found Alice in Wonderland by itself not interesting enough…

Well after finishing Alice in Wonderland I started reading The Importance of being Earnest… And to my surprise it was quite as nonsensical as Through the Looking-glass, though for a different audience and it had a different purpose. It is undoubtedly a satire about the whims of the upper-class. It is a world where names are more important than ones character (the two female leads Cecily and Gwendolen only are interested in their lovers because they supposedly carry the name Earnest), where eloquence is more important than meaning and where lying us the most common thing in the world, for at a certain point Earnest says: ‘it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth’. Now, I will provide you, dear reader, with a little summary as this play is not as well known as the adventures of Alice.
The story is about a young man named Jack (or John) Worthing, who calls himself Ernest Worthing: pretending to be Jack’s younger brother. At the beginning of the play he is visiting his friend Algernon Moncrieff. Due to Jack having accidentally left a cigarette case with Algernon the previous time he visited him, Algernon finds out that Ernest is in fact called Jack and that he has a ward called Cicely Cardew, who is his niece (or at least, he deduces this from the fact that the girl calls Jack uncle). In the mean time Lady Bracknell (Algernon’s aunt) and her daughter Gwendolen are paying Algernon a visit. Jack is in love with Algernon’s niece Gwendolen and proposes to her. Gwendolen, who always wanted to marry someone by the name of Earnest, gladly accepts. However, Lady Bracknell is very much against it as Jack does not have a favourable background. When he was a baby he was left in a leather bag in a cloakroom in Victorian station, London, where he was found by Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted him and left him his money and estate, as well as his daughter Cecily Cardew to take care of.
Algernon has taken an interested in Cicely as he has heard that she is very beautiful and leaves for Jack’s country house, since that is where the girl is residing. Algernon pretends to be Earnest. Cicely has not had the opportunity of seeing him, but was very much interested in him. The fall in love and decided to get married. However, at that particular point Gwendolen decides to pay her Earnest (i.e. Jack) a visit. The two girls get into a quarrel on who is going to marry Earnest. As both men finally arrive and the girls discover that none of them are in fact called Earnest, they are quite cross with the men. They eventually forgive them, but then there is the difficulty of their names. Both girls are absolutely set on marrying a guy named Earnest. This would be settled by Jack and Algernon being baptized under that name, which both are very willing to do (oh the courage of these men!  yes they are actually praised for their courageous sacrifice). However…. then the horrid Lady Bracknell arrives. She consents to Algernon marrying Cecily, as the girl really is quite wealthy. However, she is still dead set against the marriage between Gwendolen and Jack. And Jack will not allow his ward to marry Algernon, if Lady Bracknell does not allow him to marry Gwendolen. And now comes the plot twist. As Lady Bracknell hears the name of Cicely’s governess Ms. Prism, she immediately has her sent for. As it turns out, Ms. Prism used to be a servant of Lady Bracknell’s sister. One faithful day she accidentally mixed up her manuscript and the baby of her mistress; putting the baby in a leather bag and the manuscript into the pram, leaving the leather bag… yes at no other place but at Victoria station! Jack has finally found his family: he is Algernon’s elder brother. He is anxious to discover his true Christian name, which is none other than…. Earnest! Jack has finally truly discovered the ‘importance of being Earnest’. Everyone rejoices, for all can now finally marry. (Good thing that they did not stop to ponder on the issue that Gwendolen and Earnest were actually COUSINS… But I guess that it was quite normal at the time for cousins to marry, so no harm done).

Well there you have it. The story really is rather amusing, be it not utter nonsense most of the time hahaha. So if you are in a mood for a laugh or to read some good and well written nonsense, than I highly recommend these books. However, if you are one of those boring adults or adolescents who cannot stand nonsense as you find it entirely incomprehensible, than I would strongly advise you to stay as far away from these books as you possibly can.




Ayaka said...

lol, hmmm and now I am found torn in many direction. I'll finish my pregnancy books first :D then off to the book case ^^