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 Wildes “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 masters 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. Lanes 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, “Lanes views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the lower orders dont 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 Algernons 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.