Klein 1Gabe KleinDr.BickerstaffScript AnalysisDecember 12, 2017The Importance of Being Earnest Analysis “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life, the vital importance of being Earnest. (713.521-523) Jack’s final line demonstrates his understanding of the secret meaning behind “The Importance of Being Earnest”, by Oscar Wilde. That human beings have the capacity to be both good and evil. This is shown through the character of Jack, other character’s relation to Jack, and even in the theatrical elements of the show. The plot of the importance of being Earnest starts off with Jack and Algernon as wealthy bachelors, with Jack at the beginning of the play is known to Algernon as Ernest lives a very good life in the country providing a great example to his young ward Cecily.
Algernon on the other hand lives a life of luxury in London and has created an imaginary friend named Bunbury who Algernon visits in the country whenever there is a event that he wants to avoid. Jack himself has also invented a persona – a wayward younger brother called Ernest who he uses as a disguise for going up to London and enjoying himself.Klein 2After their first meeting Jack wants to marry Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, but first her must convince Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell of the respectability of his parents. Except Jack, had been abandoned in a handbag at Victoria station, so this is almost impossible for him. Later on in the play Algernon visits Jack’s house in the country and introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, before he met her he knew that Cecily was fascinated by stories of how wicked Earnest was, he continued to win her over and they became engaged. Shortly after their engagement, Jack comes home to the countryside announcing Ernest’s death. This sets off a chain of events. Cecily and Gwendolen have a stand-off over which of them had a claim to ‘Ernest’ first, Jack and Algernon try to be christened Ernest.
Eventually, Jack finds out that his parents were Lady Bracknell’s sister and brother-in-law and that he is, Algernon’s older brother, called Ernest. The two sets of lovers are thus free to marry, and in the best tradition of the well-made play the story ends with all the loose ends tied up and everyone set to live happily ever after.Throughout the play Jack leads a very normal life in setting a good example for his ward Cecily.
When Jack is living his life normally as Jack he shows all the good qualities of a guardian, Jack is such a respected Guardian that Cecily refers to him as uncle Jack and Jack says when he’s talking to Algernon “Cecily who addresses me as her uncle motives of respect that you could not appreciate” (696.200-201). Jack has shown that when he is living his life he makes the right choices and lives a very respectable life. Jack’s double life as Earnest is very different from his life in the countryside, he becomes Earnest when he wants to indulge in the kind of behavior that Jack has to pretend to disapprove of when he is living his life as Jack. Jack’s persona ‘Earnest’ has been described by Miss Prism as “irretrievably weak and vacillating” (701.35). Not only that, but Jack uses his persona of Earnest to make it seem like Jack adheres to notions of duty, honor and respectability all the while getting into mischief in London as his fake brother Ernest. Jack has shown that he will even lie to his loved ones his persona in order to get away with misbehaving and be seen as upright and moral.
Later into the play Jack and his double life collide when the woman he loves starts to love his alter ego Earnest, although Ernest was an escape Jack used for his personal life but when his personal life and his real life collide he has to embrace his deception to get the life that he truly wants. When Jack is himself throughout the play the rest of the characters talk about what a great guy he is and how Jack is a pillar of the community, all of them except for Lady Bracknell she believes a man’s worth is hereditary and not earned through their Klein 4actions. Algernon Moncrieff’s a reflection of Jack’s character because similar to Jack he also has a persona he takes on when he wishes to be excused from social obligations, this allows Algernon to get away with mischief while also suggesting he has a sense of honor going to his friend’s deathbed. When Algernon visits Jack’s home he pretends to be Earnest knowing that he can take advantage of Jack’s ward Cecily and marry her on the spot. Algernon isn’t an evil, he’s just amoral he doesn’t believe that his actions have any consequences even owning up to being a ‘Bunburyist’ someone who lives a second life, Algernon’s goals are just to live life to the fullest and have as much fun as he can. Gwendolen Fairfax’s relationship with Jack is that she knows him as Earnest and fell in love with the name because she says “My ideal has been to love someone with the name Earnest” (697.
410-411) she believes that the name Earnest inspires absolute confidence and when her friend Algernon mentioned Earnest to her she fell in love with him instantly. Gwendolen is not a foolish young girl, but she is so drawn to the name Earnest she doesn’t realize that the man calling himself Earnest is deceiving her into loving him. Jack’s deception of Gwendolen as Earnest is a great example of the lengths Jack will go to get what he wants, even if it means deceiving the people he loves.
Klein 5Cecily Cardew is another character in love with Jack’s alter ego Earnest, she said to Miss Prism “I wish Uncle Jack would allow that unfortunate young man, his brother to come down here sometimes” (701.27-28) because she has heard the stories about Earnest and has become infatuated with how wicked Jack’s persona of Earnest is. Just like Gwendolen Cecily has become infatuated with the name Earnest, but his reputation is enough to make her fall in love with him when she meets Algernon who pretends to be Earnest.
Jack’s double life leads Cecily to fall in love with a stranger who she knows nothing about within hours of meeting him, it’s at this point Jack is realizing his actions have consequences in other people’s lives. While she isn’t a large character in the play The Importance of Being Earnest she has an important role of showing the goodness of Jack as a character and how he contradicts that with his alter ego Earnest. Miss Prism says throughout the play that she approves of Jack’s respectability has criticised his “brother” Ernest relentlessly.
She has said to Cecily when she brought him up saying “I am not in favor of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moment’s notice” (701.36-38) this is Miss Prism’s way of saying that based on what Jack has said about Earnest over the years he is a wicked man who is beyond redemption, but until the end of the play she doesn’t realize that she’s contradicting herself because Jack and Earnest are one in the same person.Klein 6The Elements of Theatrical production are very important in the portrail of the play onstage, characters need to know how to act to truly portray their characters. Jack needs to have an actor that can seen as a respectable victorian age man while also doubling as a wicked manipulative brother who is always up to mischief. Gwendolen’s actress should depict a highborn victorian aged woman who fixates on the name Earnest, Gwendolen should seem pretentious and her own image of what a suitable husband looks like should affect her judgment. Algernon is a witty, selfish, amoral character, and the actor portraying him should have an air of cunning around him when he enters the stage.
Style of the era is another important aspect of the play.The Importance of Being Earnest is set in the victorian era and the characters and scenes need to represent this aspect of the play. Gwendolen is a shining example of a victorian woman like most women in the era she has ideas, it was said she attended lectures, and is bent on self improvement, her costume should be a very frilly dress suited to the style of the time. Jack the play’s protagonist is another very victorian era character in public he is depended upon by his servants and his land, he’s also seen as a caretaker by many of the other characters throughout the play, by victorian era standards he is seen as a respectable and responsible young man. Oscar Wilde had a very dark view about how men will act when they are given absolute freedom. Because when he shows us Jack he show’s a righteaous man in public, and the vile and wicked persona he puts on when he wants to get away from home.
Jack’s deception of his fellow characters is a main staple of the play as a whole and shows the lengths Jack will go to get what he wants, and the theatrical elements fit the show the way that Oscar Wilde planned.