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The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde
54 pages, Romance
Reviewed by Jeanne

A funny, light play about love and manners, but without much in the way of morality.

Plot

Jack Worthing invents a naughty brother by the name of Ernest. Algernon Moncrieff makes up an invalid friend named Bunbury, then impersonates Jack's "brother". And chaos ensues. What will the two men do when they find that the women they love will only love them back if their name is Ernest?

Morality

Jack and Algy both lie about "Ernest" and "Bunbury" so that they may have an excuse to go to London and the country, respectively, to see the women they love. This deception, however, has its consequences. Algy's aunt is snooty and has strange ideas about what kind of man is eligible for her daughter; Algy takes a negative view of proposals and marriages at the beginning; and Algy's manservant comments that he has little experience with marriage, having "only done it once," and that because of a misunderstanding.

Spiritual Content

One character is a clergyman and Jack and Algy propose getting re-christened. Algy's aunt says that baptism at their age is highly improper.

Violence

None.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A mention of eight bottles of champagne being consumed and, later, a bottle of wine. Jack says he smokes, which Algy's aunt approves of.

Sexual Content

Jack falls in love with Algy's cousin, and Algy falls in love with Jack's ward. Algy comments early on in the book that proposals are unromantic, marriage demoralizing, and the whole thing very silly; however, he seems to have every intention of marrying the woman he loves. Jack thinks one of the characters is his mother, to which she replies by saying in disgust that she is unmarried; he replies by saying, after a moment of thought, that he will forgive her.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

A silly, lighthearted little play, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is an easy read for a rainy day. It's short enough so as to be easily finished in an hour or so and it's sure to bring a laugh. The characters all appear to be stereotypes: Jack and Algy are the carefree youths of the "modern age"; the women are frilly and fluffy and haven't got the sense geese were born with, but make for comical characters; Algy's aunt is the picture of rich aristocrats of the time; and the servants do everything with their deferential "Yes, sir," and "Yes, miss." But when thrown together into one play, these stereotypical personalities are hilarious.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: adult

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