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To be earnest or not to be?

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Introduction

To be earnest or not to be? It is a truth universally acknowledged that earnestness is a treasurable and trustworthy feature of a human because it gives us absolute confidence. In The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) by Oscar Wilde, Jack Worthing, the protagonist of the play, is also portrayed as an earnest, serious and responsible young man. However, none can be that perfect-he is actually very deceptive in the meantime. Through Jack Worthing's verbal mannerisms and behaviours, readers can discover the satires of Wilde with respect to the hypocrisy of the aristocrats, conventional morality and trivialized views of marriage during the Victorian Era. It is doubtless that Jack Worthing is a hypocritical and deceptive character in the play, because he has always tried to pretend to be serious. For instances, as Jack threatens Algernon, "It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case (p. 16)" and "Well, that is no reason why you should eat them [muffins] all in that greedy way (p. ...read more.

Middle

Jack explains that "my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country (p. 17)" because when one is in town one amuses oneself...when one is in the country one amuses other people... it is excessively boring (p. 14)". He leads a double life because in country, he is obliged to "has a high sense of duty and responsibility (p. 34), as the way Miss Prism comments on him. From these, readers can figure out that Jack is living in a restrictive and unalterable society, in which the views are agonizingly blimpish and breathless that Jack has to sustain two identities in order to escape from his moral responsibility as a guardian and a gentleman. There is also another example which shows the morality of the Victorians, as seen in the "mother requires" between Lady Bracknell and Jack (p. 26-28). Readers can easily realize that Jack is well aware of the questions of Lady Bracknell, since Jack has been replied positively about his occupation, age, knowledge, education, property, social status and his relations, in order to gratify Lady Bracknell's wants, which is almost needless to interpret. ...read more.

Conclusion

This kind of triviality of marriage might be affected by the traditional morality of the Victorians as well; but conclusively, Jack's presence in the play is excessively essential to tell readers the way the Victorians trivialize marriage. Without a doubt, Jack Worthing or Ernest Worthing, who is apparently shown as earnest and worthy, is only an alter ego of Oscar Wilde to satirize the inversion of triviality and solemnity of the Victorian aristocracy, and express his feeling of leading a double life-being a popular playwright with a seemingly happy family and at the same time, a homosexual. Behind the ironies, the jokes and the paradoxes throughout the play, what Wilde wants to tell readers is the extreme but unreasonable seriousness of the English upper class during the superficial society in the 18th century. After reading Jack's dialogues, do you still believe that earnestness stands for absolute confidence? Jack Worthing's "earnestness" throughout the play is very hilarious indeed; but perhaps, the vital importance of being earnest is not to be earnest. ...read more.

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