Oscar Wilde Influence

One of the most difficult obstacles a playwright has to overcome is finding a
way to engage and interest their audience to their piece. Often having to deal
with such problems such as boredom, inattentiveness, or just a general lack of
interest, playwrights often invent dramatic devices that entice and entertain
their audiences. An example of this is the character Lane in Oscar Wildeís

"The Importance of Being Earnest." Not only does he portray what the public
sentiment is like, he also offers a channel for Wilde to portray the handling of
the "lower orders" by the English upper class. Lane, as any good servant
should be, is loyal and trustworthy towards his master Algernon. Lane dutifully
obliges to his masterís requests, and even defends Algernon when he gets in
trouble. For example, when discussing with Lady Bracknell the subject of the
missing cucumber sandwiches, Lane quickly replies, "There were no cucumbers in
the markets this morning,...I went down twice." The reader and the audience
are both wise to this ploy. Laneís character also serves a very interesting
dramatic function in this piece, in that he serves as a facilitator for Wilde to
comment on social perceptions of not only marriage, but of the lower classes as
a whole. Before the audience is introduced to Jack, Algernon comments,

"Laneís views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders
donít set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a
class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility." This is a rather
bold statement, and it relates to the piece in that it portrays"aristocratic" sentiment towards marriage and society. It also serves a
function in portraying that aristocratic sentiment is not always the correct
one. The comment shows more that this elitist sentiment is skewed, and out of
touch with reality. If it were correct that Lane had no sense of moral
responsibility, he probably would not have saved his master from inevitable
shame later in the act. While doing this produces some humor in the audience, it
is interesting to note that Algernonís perceptions of his servant are so
different from how Lane is portrayed in the piece. Lane allows the audience to
see how warped high-class perceptions are of society. In the end, Lane is less
of a servant to Algernon, and more of a servant to the audience, for he allows
them to see things the way they really are in society.