Theme Of Double Life In The Importance Of Being Earnest

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Characters living a ‘double life’ is at the very core of Oscar Wilde’s hit play “The Importance of being Earnest”. A play who’s mere title has different meanings, it shows from the beginning these characters, especially that of Jack and Algernon, who at one stage are both this fictitious ideal of a man ‘Ernest’, are never really sincere, Earnest, even. Wilde so brilliantly captures the momentum of living insincerely, covering ones identity, masking who you are & learning to say what others want to hear, than what is honest to say. A feat he is so well acquainted with himself, regarding his own life and sexuality at a time when there was a ‘proper’ way for an individual to act; not to be an individual. Oscar Wilde is well known for his literary…show more content…
We have the iconic quotation from Jack, when Algernon questions him about his alternate names and lives of Jacks personalities; “Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country” (Wilde, 1894, Act 1) While Jack means it quite literally, it is clear there is a difference in these personalities depending on where he currently resides. Being in town meant being in the heart of straight laced Victorian society, this is Ernest’s turf, the gentleman, the aristocrat meaning to marry well and retain wealth and reputation. His true identity, Jack, remained countryside. Freer from shackles, shielded ever that bit more from the cold, unforgiving eyes of…show more content…
The ultimate double life at this time was to differ from this highly important ritual of matrimony, and instead to favour those of your own sex, as Wilde did. We must also take into account the fact ‘Earnest’ is not only a word meaning ‘truthful’, but was, in Victorian times, a slang word for ‘gay’. Homosexual undertones within the play are fittingly subtle, matching perfectly with how expressing these feelings the time of the play would have had to be, as Wilde was well aware. The heterosexuality of the characters is very over the top, acting as a mask yet again, for what may lay beneath. (Craft, 1990, 24). The consistent use of the term ‘Bunburying’ by Algernon, in reference to visiting his ill friend Bunbury in the countryside, plays into this subtle sense of acting on ones desires hidden from society, with the identity of a man who is non-existent, therefore faces no
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