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How Important Is Being Earnest? Essay

1577 words - 6 pages

Oscar Wilde is the author of the comedic play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which is a drama about two people who hold double lives trying to be the same person. While Wilde intended for his play to have people filling the theatre with laughter he conveys a deeper meaning. By looking closely at the characters in the play readers can see everyone is very selfish or egocentric. All the events that occur between the characters happen because they are only thinking about themselves. The lives of all the characters mingle together all due to this one character named Ernest who is first created by the character, Jack, for personal benefit. Ernest is spelled different from the word “earnest” which means serious in purpose or sincerity of feelings. Wilde uses this play on words to create a satire on the morals of people during his time period. The characters in the novel do not display earnestness but disrespect. The main characters will find out that being sincere and honest is better for them than lacking respect for others.
The first character readers meet is Algernon, a friend to Jack, who is preparing for his aunt, Lady Bracknell, to arrive. After a conversation with his manservant he says “Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility” (Wilde 6). Algernon believes people of less fortune have fewer morals. For example marriage is less important. Algernon displays hypocritical characteristics because he is going to try to base a marriage off of a fake identity. Another subtle hint to Algernon’s selfishness is when he eats all the cucumber sandwiches meant for his aunt. As he is sitting there talking to Jack he eats all the cucumber sandwiches which he knows he is not supposed to eat. When Jack tries to take one, Algernon scolds him and says “Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specifically for Aunt Augusta. (Takes one and eats it)” (Wilde 7). When Aunt Bracknell notices there are no sandwiches Algernon acts like he does not know what happened and his manservant, Lane, takes the blame. Subconsciously Algernon does what he wants and does not think about others. He does not take responsibility for his actions but Lane does, who is apparently not morally responsible. The next time Algernon shows disrespect is by taking Jack’s cigarette box and looking through it without his permission. He even holds until Jack is able to explain who Cecily is. Inside the box reads “From Little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack” (Wilde 9). Algernon is confused because Jack has said that he knows no one by the name of Cecily, which is one of the many lies told by characters displaying their morals. What are Algernon’s motives for looking through the cigarette box? They are selfish. He now has found a girl and pretends to be Ernest, Jack’s imaginary younger brother to get her. Before that we find that he...

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