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Love in "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" Thursday
mkrukin@hotmail.com


mkrukin@hotmail.com

Love is often considered a universal theme: numerous books or movies or stories follow a similar plot. The boy and the girl meet. They fall in love but have a few problems. They solve their problems and live happily ever after. There may be a variation; the story might end as a tragedy, but generally love is present. Drama is no different than those mediums. Love stories can take center stage or act as minor plots, and on whichever scale, they do it often. In the play "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde, love, and its consequence of marriage, is the entire basis of the story. In the play, "A Streetcar Named Desire," by Tennessee Williams, love is not the main focus. However the effects of desire form the main idea of the play. In both plays, love and the associated issues of marriage and desire form the center of the drama.

Oscar Wilde created, in "The Importance of Being Earnest," a comedy ridiculing the upper class approach to marriage at the time. Jack, the main character, falls in love with Gwendolen. She returns his love only because she believes his name is Ernest. Gwendolen tells Jack she couldn't love a man b another name. Wilde's character is willing to love and marry Jack solely on the basis of two vowels and four consonanats. Jack and Gwendolen's love story sets the stage for the rest of the play. Gwendolen's mother refuses to let her daughter wed Jack on the basis that he has no parents and was found in a handbag in a train station. Wilde uses the situation of ridiculous unrequited love as well as farce and iriony to create a comedy which produces many epigrams on love and marriage. It also creates a situation in which two other characters fall in love: Gwendolen's cousin Algernon and Jack's ward Cecily. Cecily believes that Algernon's name is actualy Ernest and reiterates Gwendolen's statement that she could never marry a man named anything but Ernest. Furthermore, the afternoon that Cecily meets Ernest (Algernon), she announces that she has been in love with him for several months and bee engaged to him for three. She as written letters to herself, supposedly from him, bought herself gifts, supposedly from him and broken off the engagement and reinstated it, supposedly at his request. Algernon follows along with this, only asking Cecil not to break off the engagement again. Throughout the comedy, "The Importance of Being Earnest," love is present, although a parodied form thereof.

In "A Streetcar Named Desire," by Tennessee Williams, the character of Blanche is obsessed with the ideas of romance and desire, and even love. In her youth, she was married to a young man, Alan, who committed suicide. Throught the play, she claims her dead husband as the man she truly loved, even threatening to burn Alan's letters after Stanley, Blanche's brother-in-law, rifles through them. But Alan's death and the associated events drive Blanche to insanity. Alan was a "degenerate" homosexual and that rejection of everything Blanche coud offer him as his wife made her feel as if she had something to prove. After Alan's suicide, Blanche wanted to reaffirm that she was beautiful and desirable. She began sleeping with numerous men. The events of the play take place after these happenings, after Blanche is virtually exiled from her small hometown. She flees to her sister Stella, in New Orleans. Blanche lies about what has happened, but foreshadows the importance of her past actions when she tells Stella that a streetcar named Desire had brought her. Desire is Blanche's motication, a desire for romance, a desire for love, a desire to be desired. In New Orleans, she flirts with her sister's husband and his friends. Blanche begins to date one of them: Mitch. Mitch treats Blanche as she wishes to be treated. But things can't go on that way forever. Stanley discovers the secrets of Blanche's past. He reveals the information to Mitch, who drops Blanche. Blanche is already slipping into insanity and Mitch's verbal abuse, followed shortly by sexual abuse from Stanley quickly breaks her mind. Blance is brought to insanity by that same desire, by her love.

Oscar Wilde's play concerns itself with a comedic, superficial love. Tennessee Williams examines destructive, lustful desires. Both plays are centered around love. These two opposite plays examine the asociated ideas of marriage and desire, as well. They come from the far ends of the spectrum to approach an age old topic. They both have become classic plays and have been made into movies. Despite differences, by both examining the universal theme of love, Williams and Wilde became successful. Love as the core subject of a drama, after all, is well proven to be popular.