The Importance of Being Earnest


Author: Oscar Wilde

Tile: The Importance of Being Earnest

Date of publication: 1895 in three acts

Type of Work:
Comic, farcical play
Algeron's flat in London, and a country house in Hertfordshire, England; in the 1890s

Plot outline: Two men, Algernon and John, who are friends meet each other in Algy’s house where John falls in love with Gwendolen, the daughter of Algernon’s Aunt Augusta. John owns a house in the country, where everybody calls him Jack. But in the city he introduces himself as Ernest, because he always says he has a brother in the country whose name is Jack. There in the country he has a ward, Cecily and a governess, Miss Prism. When Algy visits John’s house in the country without the knowledge of Jack, who is in London, he meets Cecily and they fall in love. To be welcomed nicely Algernon introduces himself as the brother of John, Ernest (in the country John told them that his brother is named Ernest). John returns home and after him Gwendolen and her mother, Lady Bracknell enter the house. Cecily and Gwendolen recognise that both, Algy and John, told them a lie when they introduced themselves both as Ernest. In the end everything is cleared up: John has been lost as a baby in a hand - bag by Miss Prism who once worked in Lord Bracknell’s house and is the brother of Algernon. John’s really name is Ernest like his father’s name and Gwendolen and Algernon, and Cecily and Ernest are engaged and are going to marry.

Principal Characters
Algernon: secretive; he uses lies to have a better look and to solve problems;
John: he tells lies to everybody; was lost as he was a child; sometimes strange behaviour;
Jack Worthing, gentleman of the Manor House; also known as "Ernest"
Celcily Cardew, Worthing's pretty young ward
Miss Prism, Cecily's governess
Lady Augusta Braknell, Algernon's aunt; concerned much about Society; always gives her advise;
Gwendolen Fairfax, Lady Bracknell's daughter
The Reverend Canon Chasublc, Rector of Woolton

Wilde's sense of structure is theatrical. Although the language and its resonances arrest the attention of the audience and compel them to laugh, there is a rising curve of dramatic tension throughout. The essence of The Importance of Being Earnest is pace; of dialogue and duplicity; of epigram and paradox.

The patterning of contrast and parallel, opposite and like, simulated love and momentary hate are all the cornerstones of his sense of form. Built in to this is a contrast between town & country ­ sophistication and apparent innocence; between rhetoric (Lady Bracknell) and languor (Jack); between appearance and reality. There is a temptation to see The Importance of Being Earnest as an allegory: with all the characters who have escaped reality compelled to face it.
The characters in the play are important for what they say and at times for what they represent: It can be said that they are psychologically significant, or even psychologically developed. They are however, largely one - dimensional, and their reactions are often conditioned by Wilde's opportunism, always verbal and exploiting the promise of a situation.

Further peculiarities: simple English, hardly any difficult expressions; seems to be an ordinary natural dialogue;

My own opinion: It is short, clearly written.
Moreover it has an entertaining plot with a joke in it.
I really liked the theme, because Wilde criticises society by satirising it.
In addition to that he shows us the absurdity of our society:
He shows us what is important for them.
Things that don't seem to be important at all.
But in every day's life - in every man's life, there are a lot of absurd things most people cannot understand.
It is not only the importance of being earnest...

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