Oscar Wilde's wildly popular play The Importance of Being Earnest calls upon a long English theatrical tradition epitomized by William Shakespeare: the use of double and sometimes triple meanings. On one level, you may say that the characters are not "earnest" in their behaviors; that they are all frivolous and irresponsible. This would be on the satircal level; the level at which Wilde is poking fun at the ridiculaousness he sees in English society of his day.
On another level, each of the characters is precisely earnest in following their convictions. Cecily is adamantly earnest in having fallen in love with her guardian's rascally brother Earnest who lives and causes trouble in London. ...view middle of the document...
It also has importance because the reverse-Bunburyism pulled by both John and Algernon adds witty humor and complications to the story. It is also important because the resolution of the play is in the discovery of John's true identity. Oh my. Being earnest/Earnest has rather a great deal of importance.
atire in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
"The Importance of Being Earnest" is a play by Oscar Wilde, set in the
late 1800's. His actors are playing upper class citizens who are very
self-absorbed. The play is set amongst upper class, wealthy people.
They appear not to work and are concerned with their own pleasure.
Nothing is taken seriously except trivial things.
Firstly, Algernon Moncreiff talks about absurdly trivially nonsense
with a complete irrelevance, as when talking about the importance of
science, he asks, "Have you got the cucumber sandwiches".
When an intelligent conversation is taking place, the conversation has
completely altered, as he chooses to talk about sandwiches, whilst
remarking that he is, "speaking of the Science of Life".
Secondly, Algernon and Jack Worthing are worrying about the town and
the country. Algernon asks Jack why he is in the country, when, as
Jack would think, town is the 'in' and elite place to be.
Jack, says truthfully responding, "When one is in town one amuses
oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people."
This idea is stupid as they just speak in a complicated manner. The
surprising thing is that they both understand each other!
In addition, both Jack and Algernon have made false characters. Jack
has "invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest" and
Algernon has "invented an invaluable permanent invalid called
According to Jack, his name is not suitable for both the town and the
country. Algenon and Jack, therefore, live as they please, through
telling white lies.
Wilde is able to develop his humour because the plot is completely
ridiculous. Jack's position in the play is completely spontaneous.
He was "Found!" in "A Hand-bag?" in "The cloak-room at Victoria
Station?" by "The late Mr Thomas Cardew". Jack (or should I say
Ernest) "must get married at once" to Gwendolen.
Unfortunately, Lady Bracknell, the mother of Gwendolen, aunt of
Algernon, disagrees with the marriage after Jack fails her test of
becoming on her "list of eligible young men" for her daughter to
marry. Algernon visits the country house in Shropshire, where Cecily,
Miss Prism and Meriman are, but, he does not pretend to be his false
country friend, Bunberry. He decides to call himself Ernest. Ernest is
the same name as Jack's false town name.
The Algernon Ernest gets engaged to Cecily when he waits to find out
that they "have been engaged for the last three months".
Gwendolen arrives at the Shropshire country house, and she has a
conversation in the garden with Cecily. The start of their ...