Identity as a Name in The Importance of Being Earnest

626 WordsFeb 26, 20182 Pages
Wilde uses Gwendolen’s and Cecily’s obviously superficial affection towards each other to again accentuate and criticize the importance that the Victorian’s placed on an individual’s name. The practice of naming others as a means to display one’s own dominance is satirized by the irony in the argument between the two young ladies. The audience detects that they are undoubtedly fighting over Ernest as well as superiority, but their true feelings are ironically hidden (rather poorly) under fake earnestness. Garland states that, “both women attempt to define the existence of their opponent through rapidly shifting expression of Identity” (272), and cause a quiet fire in the atmosphere of the scene. Since their fight is so indirect and blatantly petty, Wilde is able to comically criticize females of victorian society that are represented by Gwendolen and Cecily. Gwendolen and Cecily are both fixated on the name Ernest because the superficial society surrounding them unconsciously causes them to gravitate towards men that they believe have earnest dispositions. Gwendolen asserts her fondness of the name Ernest declaring, “my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence” (Wilde 980). Cecily also admires the name Ernest and makes a statement almost identical to Gwendolen’s when she admits, “it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love someone whose name was Ernest. There is something in that
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