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Thursday's Episode: Wild Wilde Strikes Again

Dear <<First Name>>,

A Woman of No Importance: what an interesting title for what is one of the least appreciated plays of Wilde! But, I wonder why, for I found this Wildean comedy and cynical drama to be simply brilliant. 
LADY STUTFIELD: Ah! The world was made for men and not for women.
MRS. ALLONBY: Oh, don’t say that, Lady Stutfield. We have a much better time than they have. There are far more things forbidden to us than are forbidden to them.
A hilarious and dramatic satire on the importance of a man, and the long-shushed secret of a woman among the upper-class, stand-offish, and condescending late 19th century English society- what makes this play brilliant?

The secret behind its brilliance is the astoundingly (and, unfortunately) accurate social observations. With a story-line that is masterfully fuelled by gossip, and a wide range of characters, Wilde brings to you a spectacular social commentary that is generously dipped in wit, in classic Wilde fashion.

Act I eases us into a play that steeps into melodrama by Act IV.  Wilde takes his time slowly building a range of quipsters in Act I, who do not integrally matter themselves but set the mood of the play rolling. And, well into Act I comes Mrs. Arbuthnot, whose presence never fails to send out concurrent ripples of laughter and dismay till the very end of the play. 

On one side, we have Lord Illingworth, a single man causing all the mischief that serves as the plot. Wilde makes him the king of cynics, even in a play where every other character is one. And, on the contrast we have Mrs. Arbuthnot- the nuance with which her character is developed and employed makes her the quest of the titular theme: a woman of no importance. 

And, among this Victorian set-up lands the modern Hecter, carrying her ideals of gender equality in absolute innocence, that heightens both the comedy and the social commentary to new highs. This classic has a subtle, yet brilliant, humour in contrast to other plays like The Importance of Being Earnest which takes us through a breeze of slapstick hilarity and unbelievably hilarious impersonations. Both are brilliant, but not in the same way.
LORD ILLINGWORTH: It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely true.
MRS. ALLONBY: I adore them. The clever people never listen, and the stupid people never talk.
HESTER: I think the stupid people talk a great deal.
MRS. ALLONBY: Ah, I never listen!
In my lens, this play sets itself apart in true brilliance thanks to its ending. What might seem a story-line steeping on the question of perceived importance of a man, in that era of time, ends quite on a feminist note! Questioning double standards in the male-dominated Victorian era couldn't come in a more hilarious and educating package.

What really is the purpose of a social commentary? Maybe, to make us truly see a clearer reflection of the societal ways, its whims and fancies, justices and injustices. And, I think a social commentary has truly succeeded when it is written in a way that there is no scope of offense, and no choice but to see the truth in it, irrespective of whether you belong to the side that screams for justice or propagates injustice. If this play couldn't stand a classic example for that, I wonder what would.

Final note- the scariest part of the comedy happens to be how deeply real it is. Wilde has employed wit at its very best to give us a deep social commentary. For a 1983 play that is supposed  to be a satirical reflection of the 19th century, most of it feels like it could as well be called a satire of the present (save the Victorian elements in the play). 

If you think you might like this one, you can read the book on Gutenberg. If you have already read the play, what do you think about this play? Do let me know!

What to look forward to? I finally finished Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, after reading The Fountainhead last December. How about we talk a little on that this Sunday?
As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts, experiences, perspectives, anecdotes, criticisms, and anything at all that you would regarding today's literary discussion or my piece on it!

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