Irony in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Length: 383 words (1.1 double-spaced pages)
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The play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is full of irony. Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, the protagonists in the play, get themselves into a complicated situation called Bunburyism (as Algernon refers to it). They pretend to be someone that they are not to escape their daily lives. They lie to the women they admire and eventually the truth is unveiled.
The irony comes into play when the truth starts to unravel and Jack finds out what really happened to him as a child and why he does not know his parents. After some coincidental events, all the main characters end up in the same room. When Lady Bracknell hears Ms. Prism’s (the woman Jack hired as his nieces governess) name she immediately asks to see her. She continues to say that Ms. Prism had wandered off with a baby years ago and asks what came about of that. Ms. Prism continues the dialog to explain how she misplaced a baby that was in her bag at a train station. Jack, thinking he might have been that very baby, retrieves the bag he was found in as an infant in which Ms. Prism identifies by some distinguishing marks to have been her own. Jack realized the woman that had been teaching his niece was his mother. But then Lady Bracknell explained that she was not but Lady Bracknell’s poor sister Mrs. Moncrieff was.
The irony continues to explain how Jack and Algernon were biological brothers. They were pretending to be earlier to play out their game of Bunburyism. Jack had told everybody he had a brother in which was he used as his justification to leave his home in the country and visit his "brother" in the city. Algernon pretends to be Jack brother "Earnest" in order to win over Jack beautiful "niece" Cecily.
Jack- "Algy’s elder brother! Then I have a brother after all. I knew I had a brother! I
always said I had a brother! Cecily- how could you have ever doubted that I had a brother." (pg. 305)
Jack’s reaction shows evidence of his happiness of his new found brother. The same man that played his brother in their mind games with friends and family.
But the irony does not stop there. Jack told Gwendolyn, the woman he loved, that his name was Earnest. He lived the life of his "brother" Earnest in the city that happened to include her. But in the country, Algernon pretended to be Earnest to the woman he had admired. Both women were attracted to the name Earnest and were extremely disappointed that they were not named it. But as it turned out their father’s name was Earnest. Because Jack was the eldest brother he finds out that his father had given him his name. So after all the lies and cover-ups, Jack’s real name is Earnest.
This play is full of irony. It is written remarkably comical and almost absurdly. Wilde did a superior job at writing this play with an amusing story line filled with humor and satire. A man who made up a lie to find out that is was not really a fabrication, it was reality. Can you get any more ironical than that?