The Double Life In The Importance Of

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The Double Life In The Importance Of Being Earnest Essay, Research Paper The Double Life in The Importance of Being Earnest The Importance of Being Earnest appears to be a conventional 19th century farce. False identities, prohibited engagements, domineering mothers, lost children are typical of almost every farce. However, this is only on the surface in Wilde s play. His parody works at two levels- on the one hand he ridicules the manners of the high society and on the other he satirises the human condition in general. The characters in The Importance of Being Earnest assume false identities in order to achieve their goals but do not interfere with the others lives. The double life led by Algernon, Jack, and Cecily (through her diary) is simply another means by which they

liberate themselves from the repressive norms of society. They have the freedom to create themselves and use their double identities to give themselves the opportunity to show opposite sides of their characters. They mock every custom of the society and challenge its values. This creates not only the comic effect of the play but also makes the audience think of the serious things of life. Oscar Wilde begins with a joke in the title that is not only a piece of frivolity. It concerns the problem of recognising and defining human identity. The use of earnest and Earnest is a pun, which makes the title not only more comic, but also leads to a paradox. The farce in The Importance of Being Earnest consists in the trifle that it is important not only to be earnest by nature but to have

the name Earnest too. Jack realizes “the vital Importance of Being Earnest”(53) not till the end of the play. Algernon calls the act of not being earnest Bunburying which gives the plot a moral significance. Bunburying means inventing a fictitious character by which one can escape the frustrating social norms. Algernon says to Jack: “Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth are you serious about I haven t got the remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. You have an absolutely trivial nature.”(50) To soothe a dying friend or to help a fallen brother is a respectable excuse to get away from the repressive convention. Bunburying is the reason for all the mistaken

identities. Algernon is serious about Bunburying as the Bunburyist is serious about not being serious. The trifle is that to be serious about everything is to be serious about nothing. The Bunburyist lives in a world of irresponsibility in which there is always the danger of causing a moral anarchy. In Wilde s opinion Victorians who want to retain the respect of the conventional society lead double life- one respectable and one frivolous. He creates a world in which the laws of the society have no power and the double life can be revealed. Bunburyism is a way of life which offers relief from the restrictive social norms. Wilde s characters live in a world in which order is constantly vanishing and they scorn stability and simplicity. “The truth”, as Algy says, “is rarely

pure and never simple.”(13) Algy and Jack fulfil their wishes by the means of lying. They are impostors who use false identities in order to free themselves from the hypocrisy of the convention. Their tricks simply serve them as a way to achieve their moral freedom. The relationship between Jack and Gwendolen undergoes a parody. Gwendolen laughs when Jack asks how she might feel if his name is not Earnest. “Ah, that is clearly a metaphysical speculation”, she says, “and like all metaphysical speculation, has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.”(18) This remark of Gwendolen exactly fits the general theme of the play, but in fact the joke is directed to her. Yet at the end of the play, Gwendolen s conviction that she will marry