I read this play as part of my A-Level English Literature course, and to be honest, my ‘pre-omg-yawnfest!’ diagnosis was swiftly swept under the carpet, as this play was full of superbly written wit and humour as well as a voyeuristic insight into the social circles of ‘polite society’.
Why ‘sweetness & light’?
I feel that this media text offers it’s audience ‘sweetness & light’ because:
- mainly due to its context (the high-class social circles of Victorian Britain)
- written by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, who was highly thought-of in his field. He remains one of the great playwrights of all time, and his works still feature on many of the ‘reading cannons’ of A-Level English lit courses today.
- although some may criticise the ‘references’ within the play that were ‘shunned’ by high society (single mothers etc), it is written with expert precision and encompasses the ‘whit’ and banter that was a commonplace ‘reflex’ in such circles
Values the text communicates:
- ‘family’ – the importance of family ties and being there for one another
- ‘pride’ – Mrs Arbuthnot retains her pride throughout, even though she has an illegitimate son.
- ‘secrets’/’secret-keeping’ – this theme is ‘toyed with’ throughout the play, and also the importance of how life-changing secrets can be within societies such as this
- ‘age=superiority’ – the older characters remain ‘aloof’ over those who are far younger
Overall, i feel that this play more than deserves its pigeon hole amongst the likes of ‘Jayne Ayer’, ‘Great Expectations’, & ‘The Brontë sisters’ to name but a few, and fills our lives with endless sugar and sunshine…