Some epigrams found in "The Importance of Being Earnest" include: "Divorces are made in heaven" and "It's only the intellectually lost who ever argue." Oscar Wilde used these succinct and pithy sayings to satirize Victorian society. The first, for instance, is a play on the commonly stated but uncommonly contemplated "Marriages are made in heaven." Wilde was making the point that divorces tend to be a far more reliable and consistent means of attaining happiness than marriage.
Epigrams are so important in "The Importance of Being Earnest," as well as in much of Wilde's other work, that some believe his writing process to have begun with little more than the epigrams he wished to subvert.
Some more of Wilde's epigrams, or "Oscarisms" as they are sometimes known as, include:
- "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
- "Those whom the gods love grow young."
- "Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations."
- "Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer."
- "The way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it."
The only character in "The Importance of Being Earnest" who does not talk in epigrams is Cecily. Unlike the other major characters in the play who tend to embody urban Victorian high-society and values, Cecily embodies rural innocence and childlike obsessions.