While defining the term “Bunburyist,” Algernon comments to Jack that, “If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinary bad health [. . .] I wouldn’t be able to dine with you at Willis’s to-night” (Wilde 9). Bunbury, Algernon’s fake sick friend, allows him to be himself and enjoy time with his friends instead of entertaining his aunt. Algernon tells Jack that he created Bunbury to “be able to go down into the country whenever [he] choose[s]” (Wilde 9). Being of his high standing, Algernon was expected to stay in the city with his aunt as well as go to balls, dinner parties and other events on the social calendar; however, having a sick friend with a perpetual sickness allows him to go to the country, pretend to be Earnest, and eventually meet his future wife Cecily. When Jack tries to get Algy to leave Hertfordshire by asserting that his “duty as a gentleman” was calling him back to town, Algy responds with, “My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures” (Wilde 33) Because of his fake friend Bunbury, Algernon is able to evade the obligations of being a gentleman. He can enjoy life and have fun without offending his aunt or
It is a well known phenomenon that many authors' lives are reflected through a character in their work. In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, the double life, or double identity, can be seen as the central metaphor in the play, epitomized in Algernon's creation of "Bunbury" or "Bunburying". As this term is the only fictitious word employed throughout the text, it is crucial to critically analyze not only its use and implications, but more importantly, the character who coins the term; Algernon Moncrieff. In addition, it is also significant to note the marked differences between Algernon and Jack's perceptions of the notion of bunburying, as it further develops Algernon's character within the text. But perhaps the single most
The Importance of Being Earnest appears to be a conventional 19th century farce. False identities, prohibited engagements, domineering mothers, lost children are typical of almost every farce. However, this is only on the surface in Wilde's play. His parody works at two levels- on the one hand he ridicules the manners of the high society and on the other he satirises the human condition in general. The characters in The Importance of Being Earnest assume false identities in order to achieve their goals but do not interfere with the others' lives. The double life led by Algernon, Jack, and Cecily (through her diary) is simply another means by which they liberate
The significance of the notion of being earnest is contradicted in the play, through Wilde’s clever use of words, characters digression of societal normalcy, and triviality of Victorian concepts. Cynical character Algernon asserts that women of Victorian society reinforce the importance of orderly money as a type of social contract. On page 3, it is quickly established the type of
The dramatic ironies in “The Importance of Being Earnest” add to the humor of the play. At the very start of the play, the readers only have limited information about the characters. When Jack visits Algernon in his house, the readers are taken along not knowing any knowledge of the events beforehand. They learn along with Algernon that Jack has a make believe brother whose name is Ernest, and Jack uses Ernest in order to get out of many situations as well as an excuse to not be a proper gentleman at times. Algernon learns that Jack’s real name is not Ernest, but that it is really Jack. However, the readers are given the privilege of knowing Jack’s true name from the very beginning. Then Algernon confesses to his “bunburying,” which is essentially the fact that he has a made up friend who is ill in order that Algernon can use him as an excuse to free himself from unpleasant social scenes. The action continues when Jack becomes engaged to Gwendolen under the false pretenses of the name Ernest. Skipping forward, Algernon visits Jack’s niece, Cecily, at Jack’s house in the countryside. Here is one of the first instances of dramatic ironies. Algernon introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, Jack’s younger wild brother. The readers know that he is not, and that Ernest is made up in the first place. This creates humor due to the suspension it builds. The reader anticipates when Cecily will find out the truth, and how it will affect her. The plot thickens when Jack announces to Canon Chasuble that his brother Ernest is dead, while at the same time Algernon is pretending to be Ernest at Jack’s home. Once again this creates suspension because the reader has
One might believe that honesty is one of the building blocks of a society and is what initiates trust between people; furthermore, the Victorian era was a time period in British history where rules and morals appeared to be strict. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, a nineteenth century author who was one of the most acclaimed playwrights of his day, is a play set in the Victorian time period that demonstrates how trivial telling the truth was. Different characters throughout Wilde’s play establish their dishonestly through hiding who they really are and pretending to be someone whom they are not. In an essay titled “From ‘Oscar Wilde’s Game of Being Earnest,’” Tirthankar Bose describes the characters from The Importance of Being Earnest as playing games with one another, which is a result of the deceit that was present in the play. Although the Victorian time period is a time characterized by strong morals and values, The Importance of Being Earnest proves this notion to not apply to telling the truth and ultimately questions why truth is not valued in the Victorian time period amongst other strictly upheld values. Honesty is not valued throughout the play because some of the characters felt to need to appear as if they represented the strict morals that were common throughout the time period.
A person’s name and position in society are significantly important for the upper class, due to the fact that if one were to marry into the family, a key member of the family would judge the person by their social class and the family name they carry to see if they are worthy to being a part of their lineage. In the play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a person's social class is highly admired. The main characters are high in society and are falsely appearing to live up to great expectations. In Oscar Wilde’s play, the theme of the social class is extensively explored through the characters, although they are living double-lives.
“The Importance of Being Earnest,” a satirical play written by Oscar Wilde, discusses a vast variety of criticisms regarding the late Victorian societal period. In this comedic drama, focusing on and analyzing certain minor characters leads to a more effective interpretation of the messages attempting to be portrayed to the audience. For example, through the persona of Lady Bracknell, Wilde effectively mocks the concept of marriage for social status rather than love. Additionally, interpreting the roles of the lower class servants allows the readers to internalize the desperate need for social reform that the author felt at the time period. Finally, the entire concept of Bunburyism, or masquerading as an alternate persona, satirizes the hypocrisy of the Victorian Era.
One way the theme of superficiality is displayed in the play is through how names are viewed and valued by the characters. In the play, both bachelors partake in what Algernon calls ‘Bunburying’ which features them taking on a different name or creating a fictional person in their lives.
The Importance of Being Earnest is about a man named Jack Worthing who works several jobs in his town servicing other people. For many years, Jack has pretended to have a brother named Ernest who is supposedly off living a life on the edge on the pursuit of happiness, while managing to get into constant trouble. What Jack’s community doesn’t know, is that Ernest is just a made up person whom Jack uses as an excuse to leave work anytime he wants and to visit his lover Gwendolen. In the beginning, no one else knows that Ernest is actually Jack’s secret identity, until later in the play when Jack meets Algernon, who becomes
The Importance of Being Earnest, written by a fascinating Oscar Wilde reveals a story of social class and hierarchy during the roaring Victorian time period (1837-1901). Focusing his writing on the social classes, the play becomes comical when he exposes the flaws held by the upper class during this time. Wilde saw earnestness as being a key ideal in Victorian culture for much of British society struck Wilde as dry, stern, conservative, and so “earnestly” concerned with the maintenance of social norms and the status quo that it had become almost inhuman. This play depicts certain characters that conform so easily to the conventional social status and characteristics of the Victorian culture. Such characters include Algernon, Jack, Cecily, and Gwendolyn. These characters introduce many themes that focus on the Victorian lifestyle, primarily the issues of being “earnest” and one’s own morality.
The characters in the play are the primary source of the humor and irony. In Otto Reinert’s “Satiric Strategy in the Importance of Being Earnest” he points out that, “Wilde's basic formula for satire is their (the characters) assumption of a code of behavior that represents the reality that Victorian convention pretends to ignore” (Reinert 15). The main character, Jack Worthing, is a prime example of this. To function in society he creates an alter-ego named Ernest. This way, he can be “Ernest in town and Jack in the country” (Wilde 1737). Jack represents his conventional Victorian side – he has responsibility as a guardian in the country, where it is his “duty” to “adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects” (Wilde 1738). Ernest, however, enables Jack to throw away his real life troubles and act carelessly, something he could never do as Jack. The dual nature of his character satirizes the hypocrisy in conventional Victorian
Every line, every character, and every stage direction in The Importance of Being Earnest is set on supporting Oscar Wilde’s want for social change. The Importance of Being Earnest was written during the late period of the Victorian era. During this period social classification was taken very seriously. It could affect working and living conditions, education, religion, and marriage. Wilde explores the issues of social class and turns it into a comedic play. He humorously criticizes Victorian manners and attacking the society of the luxurious life. The audience becomes self-aware as the characters reflect on themselves. Plays such as this become successful because of the backgrounds the writers come from and the experiences they have had.
For Wilde, the word earnest comprised two different but related ideas: the notion of false truth and the notion of false morality, or moralism. The moralism of Victorian society—its smugness and pomposity—impels Algernon and Jack to invent fictitious alter egos so as to be able to escape the strictures of propriety and decency. However, what one member of society considers decent or indecent doesn’t always reflect what decency really is. One of the play’s paradoxes is the impossibility of actually being either earnest (meaning “serious” or “sincere”) or moral while claiming to be so. The
Gender fluidity through the characters’ personalities and actions is subtly utilized in both plays to comment on the social traits expected of both sexes. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack and Algernon exhibit immature personalities through their Bunburying. When Algy says to Jack, "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose" (Wilde, 301), it demonstrates Algernon’s yearning for an aesthetic life free from the social correctness. The same behaviour is seen in Jack through his creation of Ernest, and Algy’s comment on Jack being “one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know” (|Wilde ?301). Their desire to escape the monotonous routine of their daily lives reveals their