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The Importance Of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde

1169 words - 5 pages

The Importance of Being Earnest was one of Wilde’s Victorian melodramas. There are plenty elements of satire, intellectual travesty, a comic take on Victorian manners and an appealing superficial-ness that makes it a light comedy. Behind this charade of humor though lie deeper, more serious undertones. The play is a take at the extreme hypocrisy and cloying moralism’s that were distinct marks of the Victorian era.
In Act I of The Important of Being Earnest, the term and concept of ‘Bunbury’ is first introduced when Algernon accuses Jack of “being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist’. After some prodding and explaining, Jack manages to evoke the meaning of Bunburying. Bunburying could be ...view middle of the document...

Jack believed that marriage was a compelling reason to drop all lies and deception, but Algernon disagreed. He believed that marriage was the reason Bunbury’s existence would be most justified – “A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it.” (Act I). If he would let go of Bunbury, it was almost certain that his wife would adopt the concept, since in marriage, “three is company and two is none.” (Act I).
The broader theme the play tries to address is the uncontrolled hypocrisy of the Victorian era. Jack and Algernon were both Bunburyists – Jack used the alibi of a fictional younger brother called Ernest to sneak into the city from his life in the country, while Algernon used his curiously invalid and mythical friend Bunbury to escape into the country. Algernon’s initial casualness towards the concept of Bunburying paints him in a negative light. He thinks of it as a game with “rules”. It is a channel of amusement for him. He uses it to escape social obligations life family dinners and take a break by going into the countryside.

But over the development of the plot, one realizes that the virtuous-seeming Jack is actually a more negative character than Algernon. Jack has invented a ‘Bunbury’ of his own – a younger brother called Ernest who lives in London and is always getting into trouble; trouble of the sort that Jack needs to go to London every now and then to sort his brothers dealings out. But the twist here is that Jack himself is Ernest. He lives a dual life, that of Jack in the country, and Ernest in the city. In fact, his lies and deception go so far and deep that even Algernon, his best friend, did not know about his real life in the country and that his real name was Jack until he found an inscribed message on the inside of Jack’s personal cigarette case from a certain “little Cecily” and pried the secret out of him. In fact, even though Jack was Bunburying himself, he seemed to mock at the way Algernon presented it.
This kind of hypocrisy on Jack’s part is visible all throughout the play. At the end of Act II, after Cecily and Gwendolen have left the two men alone after the showdown of uncovered lies, Jack remarks scornfully that this was perhaps what Algernon considered Bunburying. In his usual dandy manner – for Algernon was the dandy so popular...

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