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The Usage of Antithesis and Satirical Juxtaposition in The Importance of Being Earnest

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The Usage Of Antithesis And Satirical Juxtaposition In The Importance Of Being Earnest

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In the novel The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Cecily Cardew is a subject of development through the usage of antithesis and satirical juxtaposition in mirroring of another character, Gwendolen.

If Gwendolen is a product of London's excessive society, Cecily is its antithesis. She is a child of nature, as ingenuous and unspoiled as a pink rose, to which Algernon compares her in Act II. “Because you are like a pink rose, Cousin Cecily” (Act II, Page 42). However, her ingenuity is disguised via her fascination with wickedness. She is captivated by the name “Ernest” simply as Gwendolen is, however, wickedness is mostly what leads her to fall in love with “Uncle Jack’s brother,” whose reputation is wayward enough to intrigue her. Like Algernon and Jack, she is a fantasist. She has invented her romance with Ernest and made it grandiose with artistry and exuberance because the men have their spurious duties and hidden personalities, making themselves seem interesting. Though she does not have an alter-ego as vivid or developed as other characters such as Ernest, her claim that she and Algernon and/or Ernest are already engaged is derived from the fantasy realm that she’s created around Ernest. Cecily might be the most realistically drawn character within the play, and also is the most realistic person who does not speak in epigrams. Her attraction lies in her idiosyncratic cast of thoughts and her imaginative ability, qualities that derive from Wilde’s notion of lifestyle as a piece of artwork. These factors of her personality make her a prime partner for Algernon and a clear opposite as an antithesis towards Gwendolen.

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To continue on the contrast, both Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew provide Wilde with possibilities to discuss ideas and present the concept, New Woman, close to the turn of the 19th century. It can be almost described as a satirical display created by Wilde. They are curiously similar, but they also have their variations. In terms of juxtaposition, the character Cecily is essentially developed in order to create a counterpart yet also an equal to Gwendolen. There’s the Ernest aspect: marrying a person named Ernest appears to be the founding fundamental of their lives. The women even say it in unison: 'Your Christian names are nonetheless an insuperable barrier. That is all!' (Act III, Page 74). Gwendolen and Cecily each keep a diary, where they believe could be used in a courtroom as evidence of anything they are saying or thinking. Additionally, both are inclined to fight at all costs to get what they need, albeit, not in front of the servants. Neither Cecily nor Gwendolen has a large character arc or development because the absurd and complex plot definitely unfolds to their advantage and goals. Nearing the end, Cecily has to make do with an 'Algernon.' So Gwendolen wins since she ends up marrying an 'Ernest.' Wilde crafted their characters so similarly because his major interest was in satirizing the society that produced women like them versus the people themselves.

Therefore, Cecily Cardew, although not one of the main characters has a role in the development of satirical themes through antithesis and juxtaposition upon characters such as Gwendolen Fairfax and Algernon. At first, the novel may portray her as a simple 18-year-old girl, but upon further investigation and analysis it is evident that she has a place in the messages and motifs of the story that are important. 

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