Essay Sample on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest

Published: 2022-07-11
Essay Sample on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature Theatre
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 631 words
6 min read

"The Importance of Being Ernest" was a play written by the author of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" Oscar Wilde and first performed on the stage on Valentine's Day 1895. Oscar Wilde wrote the play in the summer of 1894 while at vacation in the seaside town of Worthing, England. The play was published in 1899 for public consumption. "Ernest" is a fictional creation of one of the two main protagonists, Jack Worthing to escape from social situations and pursue interests that would otherwise give him a poor reputation to the rural community of Hertfordshire.

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In the play, in Act I Jack Worthing is first introduced to us as Ernest Worthing in the house of Algernon in London. Lane, Jack's maid, is setting the table for afternoon tea. Algernon is expecting his aunt and niece as visitors. Ernest Worthing arrives first, and he talks up with Algernon who is curious about the recent whereabouts of Ernest who has not been in London. Ernest claims he was in the countryside, but he does not specify where. Algernon or Algy is seen to be persistent, and he asks Ernest if he has been in Shropshire, which Ernest hurriedly replies yes. At this point, one realizes that Ernest could be hiding some secrets because he's not open about his life.

Ernest is interested in Gwendolen with whom he has been flirting with openly in the past. Algernon reveals that his aunt Lady Bracknell disapproves of Ernest who replies that he is in love with young Gwendolen. Algernon uses the cigarette case that Ernest left on his last visit on which it is written: "From little Cecily with her fondest love to Uncle Jack" (Wilde, 1.65). Just like that, it is revealed that the man posing as Ernest Worthing is Jack Worthing. Jack Worthing lives a double life to escape responsibilities at Hertfordshire. The man is Ernest in London and Jack in the countryside. In Hertfordshire, Jack Worthing is a respectable member of the community, a dignified farmer owning large tracts of land with tenants and employers. Also, he is the legal ward of one Cecily Cardew, grand-daughter of Thomas Cardew who adopted Jack as a child. In all respect, he is a proper member of the community who gives back generously, but as the play reveals, that is all a farce when he goes to London.

Algernon also has a method of escaping social gatherings and that is through his friend "Bunbury" who it turns out is completely made up (Wilde, 1.86). The play uses very witty dialogue and takes a comical approach to serious issues like marriage and social situations. Gwendolen is in love with the name Ernest which supposedly "inspires absolute confidence"; this makes it hard for Jack to drop his other identity (Wilde, 1. 141). In Act II, Algernon appears at Jack's house in Hertfordshire, claiming to be Jack's brother Ernest. Jack had already told the people that Ernest is dead, but he has to go along with Algernon's deception. His niece and ward Cecily becomes interested in Algernon because the name Ernest "inspires absolute confidence"- the same reason as Gwendolyn's interest in Jack (Wilde, 2. 232).

In Act 3 both Jack and Algernon get themselves brides- Gwendolyn and Cecily respectively. Gwendolyn comes to a tea party organized by Cecily at Jack's house, and both women find out that they are to marry Ernest. When Jack and Algernon arrive, they are confronted by their brides to be, and they have to become honest. It turns out that Jack is the older brother of Algernon, having been stolen by Miss Prism from Lady Bracknell's sister. Jack had also been christened Ernest John by his parents, and so it turns out that all this time Jack has been Ernest (Wilde, 3. 180).

Works Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The importance of being Ernest. Broadview Press, 2009.

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