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The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

If you take an interest in The Importance of Being Earnest play, then stay and enjoy the detailed examination of this literary work. In the late 1800s, the general public read books about serious people. This eccentric comedy by Oscar Wilde became a breath of air for British society.

A newbie would think such a light reading is hardly worth analysis, but they would be wrong. The author hides deep meanings behind the veil of comedic elements, and the readers must uncover them. This article is your solution if you are looking for custom research paper help!

Oscar Wilde Bio

Oscar Wilde

Surprisingly, the play by Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, accurately reflects the playful and bizarre nature of the writer. Wilde’s witty writing style was one of his ways of artistic expression. As much as he protested against Victorian values through work, the young man demonstrated rather provocative behavior in daily life.

It is important to mention that the Irish writer was born in a wealthy family whose members gave him an exceptional upbringing. Furthermore, education at Oxford shaped his natural writing gift like a diamond. Here, Wilde learned ancient languages and literature and acquired exquisite taste in clothes. Indeed, the part about clothing seems insignificant at first, but it became a major part of Wilde’s persona. Curious how he was famous in the British Empire equally for The Picture of Dorian Gray and his awesome style. No party in the upper-class society was complete without Wilde!

Another pillar of Oscar Wilde’s biography is his connection with Lord Alfred Douglas. Because romantic male relationships were frowned upon then, the writer had to live a double life while being a married man. Eventually, this romance led Wilde to a prison cell that ruined his health. At that time, even lord Alfred Douglas refused to help him out. These unfortunate circumstances made the author’s life span too short, but he presented his art to the world.

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The Importance of Being Earnest Characters

Remembering the list of the main characters in The Importance of Being Earnest will help you better understand the play. However, if you prefer brief descriptions over a character analysis essay, here is one for you.

Jack Worthing

Wilde gave the main character role to Jack Worthing, a man of a clean slate that hardly reflects reality. From the beginning, readers see how Jack deceives his social circle by living a double life. The man has a fake identity in a big city and uses the story about a non-existent brother for town citizens. Both imaginary personas have the name “Earnest.”

Algernon Moncrieff

This young man is the protagonist’s best friend. Surprisingly, he lives the same way as Jack and lies to everybody about his sick imaginary friend, Mr. Bunbury. Algernon Moncrieff is a charismatic and quick-witted dandy who enjoys a luxurious lifestyle.

Cecily Cardew

The author describes Cecily as a dreamy young woman under the guardianship of Jack Worthing. Markedly, her deceased grandfather adopted Jack, whose parents were unknown. To fulfill his duty, Mr. Worthing takes care of Cecily while Algernon seeks her attention.

Gwendolen Fairfax

Gwendolen, a beloved woman to Jack and a cousin to Mr. Moncrieff, appears smart and elegant. But, at the same time, she has high standards for men and even refuses to marry someone whose name is any other than Ernest.

Lady Bracknell

Wilde writes Lady Bracknell, a woman who aims to meet any Victorian standard of high society. However, due to her strict and prideful demeanor, her daughter Gwendolen has too little freedom in choosing a future husband.

The other characters in The Importance of Being Earnest have secondary roles, like servants or representatives of the authorities. Some of them, including Jack’s parents, are dead but influence the plot.

The Importance of Being Earnest Summary

The Importance of Being Earnest

Were you looking for a brief description of events in Wilde’s play? Then, The Importance of Being Earnest summary can help you out. You will know the entire plot in just a couple of minutes.

At first, the story takes place in the apartment that belongs to Algernon Moncrieff. The man awaits important guests, Lady Bracknell with daughter Gwendolen. Instead, his friend, Ernest Worthing, turns up at his place without invitation. The unexpected guest announces his desire to court young Gwendolen Fairfax. To Ernest’s surprise, Algernon confronts him about a cigarette case with a revealing inscription. The engraved sentence clarifies that Ernest’s real name is John, and he takes care of a woman named Cecily. “Ernest” is a pseudonym for sneaking out into the city.

Algernon finds it amusing that both Jack and he have the same strategy. However, Mr. Moncrieff has a fake story about his poor, ill friend, Mr. Bunbury. So whenever Algernon feels like partying, he pretends to visit the sick man.

Then, Lady Bracknell with her daughter finally arrives, and Jack confesses to Gwendolen. The woman is sure that she is going to marry Ernest, though. Still, her mother refuses to accept this alliance due to Jack’s unknown origin.

The play's second act takes place in the countryside, where Cecily Cardew lives under the supervision of Miss Prism. Cecily refuses to study. Instead, she dreams about Jack’s non-existent brother. Moreover, the young woman pretends to have a busy family life with the said “Ernest,” and she describes it in her diary.

At this point, two major events unfold in the mansion. First, Jack and Algernon arrive at the estate independently. To everybody’s shock, Jack is wearing all black clothes since he wants to “kill off” his fake relative. Meanwhile, Algernon pretends to be Ernest to win Cecily’s heart.

The situation heats up as Gwendolen Fairfax appears at the doorstep too. She later gets into an argument with Cecily since both women are in love with a person named Ernest. Finally, the truth comes out, but love wins, and women forgive Jack and Algernon. Sadly, the newly arrived Lady Bracknell ruins the romantic moment. Her daughter Gwendolen had to end up with a noble person, unlike Jack Worthing.

Unexpectedly, Miss Prism confesses that she lost a general Moncrief’s child years ago, and this child is Jack. So here is the happy ending, Jack’s real name is Ernest Moncrief, Algernon is his younger brother, and nothing comes in the way of love.

What Is the Book The Importance of Being Earnest About?

The Importance of Being Earnest book covers serious issues that the author wants to discuss. A reader watches how people from upper-class society demonstrate lower-class traits. Neither Jack Worthing nor Algernon Moncrieff fits into their high social status requirements, but they fool others throughout the play. 

What Is the Main Message of The Importance of Being Earnest?

Despite being in the upper social class, the posh characters fail to possess any important traits of a gentleman. At the same time, they set unrealistically high standards for other people. Jack and Algernon in this play lack ordinary decencies like:

  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Modesty
  • Loyalty

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”, – says the writer in his play, which is a good thesis statement. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde shows the problem of having double standards through hypocritical tendencies displayed.

What Makes The Importance of Being Earnest a Comedy of Manners?

The Importance of Being Earnest play rarely leaves anyone indifferent due to its comedic elements. All the different characters here are caricatures, and their behavior looks even more absurd in the context of the conservative Victorian society.

Indeed, the author exaggerates the personality traits and situations displayed in the book. However, because such absurdity is uncharacteristic of a higher social class, readers enjoy the contrast in this trivial comedy.

The Importance of Being Earnest Essay Sample

Here you go a sample of an essay 'The Role of Honesty in The Importance of Being Earnest':

The Role of Honesty in The Importance of Being Earnest
The Role of Honesty in The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest Analysis

The Importance of Being Earnest

Thanks to The Importance of Being Earnest analysis, modern people get familiar with certain social conventions of the Victorian age. In reality, earnestness was an important trait the upper-class society heavily encouraged in Victorian England. All trivial things like carelessness had to vanish from an aristocrat’s life. The Importance of Being Earnest book illustrates the rebellious people of the Victorian age who balanced between fun and duties.

What Literary Devices Does Oscar Wilde Use in The Importance of Being Earnest?

Oscar Wilde generously employs multiple literary devices in his own paper to expose the universal truth about the two-faced higher society.

1. Puns

The author toys with words that sound similar but have several meanings, like the name “Ernest,” who is “earnest.”

2. Epigrams

Satire in The Importance of Being Earnest is in epigrams, popular in English literature. Wilde uses them to write brief character descriptions with funny, unexpected turns.

3. Irony

Wilde’s work published for the posh English society for sure contains irony. The witty writer hooks everybody with constant amusing remarks.

What Is the Significance of the Repetition of the Word Absurd in The Importance of Being Earnest?

Jack, the protagonist, prefers to describe things as “absurd.” The author wanted to highlight the senselessness of human life. Wilde successfully ridiculed the social conventions of those times.

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The Importance of Being Earnest Themes

Most literary critics agree that there are various The Importance of Being Earnest themes. Throughout his own paper Oscar Wilde cover the following topics:


Responsibility is the major theme of the book about not-so-serious characters. While some heroes lack this important trait, others have a strong sense of duty.


Here, Oscar Wilde brings up a shallow attitude toward religion. Even religious rituals are just a way to earn money for the characters.


Whenever the protagonist or his best friend mentions marriage, they tend to show a hint of irritation. The wedding means the end of free single life for these gentlemen, although they both propose to ladies.

The Importance of Being Earnest: Symbols

The Importance of Being Earnest

What are some symbols in The Importance of Being Earnest? They appear throughout the play, bringing additional meaning to the scenes. Some of the major figures are:

Ernest and Bunbury

Undeniably, both “brother Ernest” and “friend Bunbury” are fundamental to The Importance of Being Earnest play. They represent dishonesty and the desire to get away from mundane responsibilities.

Big city and countryside

Occasionally, the characters mention their attitude towards life in London or a small town. They usually associate the countryside with the lower classes and gravitate towards a more fashionable city lifestyle. During the Victorian period, only the wealthiest could afford a London apartment, so Wilde mocks this stereotype.

The Importance of Being Earnest: Movie

Not only can you enjoy this play in theaters, but also watch The Importance of Being Earnest movie at home. Unlike George Bernard Shaw, Charles Dickens, or Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde creates a comfortable, comedic atmosphere, which is reflected in The Importance of Being Earnest 2002 film.

High-quality decorations and costumes helped to recreate the England of Queen Victoria. Altogether, the film company registered over seventeen million dollars of revenue. The Importance of Being Earnest movie was successful worldwide!

The Importance of Being Earnest Quotes

Oscar Wilde is famous for his memorable quotes, and The Importance of Being Earnest book contains a collection of brilliant lines. For instance, the line “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune…to lose both seems like carelessness” characterizes Lady Bracknell as a woman who lacks compassion. Likewise, Cecily Cardew demonstrates her shallow nature by saying, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” As you can see, the lines perfectly match each person that says them.

Given that you need to write a paper on Wilde’s play, you have a chance to buy a essay online! Get acquainted with The Importance of Being Earnest pdf sample down below.

Summing Up

Overall, the phenomenal comedy by Oscar Wilde shook the conservative empire that got used to Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, and Jane Austen. Comedic elements, exaggerations, and different literary devices entertain the audience while reminding them of an important trait like honesty. This author was truly ahead of his time, as the play wins people’s hearts even today.

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