The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

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The Importance of Being Earnest

A protagonist is described as the main character in the story. The
story line revolves around this one character and the events in his/
her life. In the Importance of Being Earnest, Jack Worthing is the
protagonist of the play because it is his character that dominates the
narrative. His pursuit to marry Gwendolen, and the conflicts and
struggles he goes up against to reach his ultimate goal, are traits
which develop his character into being the protagonist.

For a character to take on the role of protagonist, there always needs
to be conflict. Jack Worthing’s first conflict is getting the
approval to marry Gwendolen from her mother, Lady Bracknell. In the
beginning of the story when Jack, also referred to as Ernest, proposes
to Gwendolen, but is denied the ability to marry Gwendolen until he
has passed Lady Bracknell’s series of tests; what she sees as a
suitable husband for her daughter. This is shown through her statement
of: “I fell bound to tell you that you are not on my list of eligible
young men…however, I am quite ready to enter your name should your
answers be what a really affectionate mother acquires” (Wilde,1438).
Earnest informs her that he does not know anything from his childhood,
including who his parents are, and why he became an orphan; and now is
thought to be unacceptable suitor to marry her daughter, Gwendolen.
Lady Bracknell reinforces to Jack that “to be born, or at any rate
bred in a handbag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to
display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that
reminds one of the worst excesses of the French revolution”(Wilde,
1440), basically stating that having a hand bag for a parent is an
unacceptable “notion about family life” (Parker), and needed to find
out who his parents are before he can marry Gwendolen. It is this
sort of conflict that must arise in order for the play to pursue any
further. It is the role of the protagonist to ensure that he
continues on his pursuit in order to get what one wants, that being
the hand of Gwendolen. Jack lies and discoveries “of human freedom in
protean identity” (Parker, 185) which he “adopt[ed] identities to suit
the occasion” (parker, 185). All of these identities and secret lives
eventually led to Gwendolen’s hand but also the truth of who Jack
really was; the true importance of being Ernest, because being Ernest
gets him what he wants.

The title of the play “The Importance of being Earnest” shows
significance because this creates conflict and comedy between the

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characters resulting in the climax of the play. Jack worthing created
an imaginary life for himself in the city; masquerading under the name
of Ernest. He Lead an exciting life as a bachelor and was able to be
free of his responsibility under the name of Jack. But when he
wanted to pursue Gwendolen, he wanted to put an end to his charades
and live a life of truth with her. He no longer wanted to lead a
double life. As a result of the leading a double life, Jack’s
character and multiple identities created sub plots with other
characters, somehow intertwining his life into their life stories. If
it was not for Jack’s double life, it would have never sparked the
curiosity of Algernon, who posed as the made-up ‘Ernest’, to want to
meet “little Cecily”, the name on the “Uncle Jack’s” cigarette case.
Nor would it have caused Cecily to fall in love with someone the name
of Ernest, rather she fell in love with the man that Jack made up,
this being his sick brother Ernest. “Parker describes the protagonist
as a character in the play who attains his goals through ‘elaborate
deception’ to ‘satisfy their impulses’. It is through their secret
identity that allows them success in attaining their ultimate goals”
(Parker, 175). In Jack’s case, his goal was Gwendolen.

Ultimately it is the importance of who Earnest is that gives him the
ability to attain his goal, that of marrying Gwendolen. He has
overcome the obstacles which denied him access to Gwendolen; that of
Lady Bracknell, and the creation of his double life. It is the double
life which he has been leading that created a conflict of who actually
Earnest is. It is the importance of being Earnest which creates
conflict between Gwendolen and Jack, who she thinks is Earnest. She
would not marry anyone who did not own the name Earnest, her “ideal
has always been to love someone of the name Earnest. There is
something in that name that inspires absolute confidence (Wilde,1437)
”. This is important because the whole play is based on Jack wanting
to pursue a life with Gwendolen. But if his name is not Ernest, she
would not marry him because she sees so highly in someone whose name
was just that. Jack even went to extremes of almost changing his name
so that he would have the acceptance of marrying Gwendolen. It is
ultimately revealed that he had been leading a true life to begin
with, he tells Gwendolen that “it is a terrible thing for a man to
find out suddenly that all of his life he has been speaking nothing
but the truth”. Jack attains his ends through lying, a lover of
deception and imposture, but it is through these deceptions which
serve their purpose (Parker, 183). The protagonist in the play is
someone who creates conflict, overcomes obstacles and ultimately
reaches an end result that satisfies his own interests. He figured
out who is parents were and he received Gwendolen’s hand in marriage,
after finding out he truly is an Ernest.

Oscar Wilde develops the character of Jack Worthing finally known as
Ernest John Worthing as the main character of the play. The plot,
conflict, and characters all revolved around Jack. Through his double
life, the importance of being Ernest, and his struggles to overcome
his now mother in law’s grasp of her daughter; has centered jack as
being the protagonist. It is evident in the play that Jack is the
protagonist because most, if not all of story and sub-plots involve or
are caused because of him in some factor. His imaginary lifestyle
although full of lies and deceit, created an ultimate truth and
coupled new loves together, resulting in a fresh and new life with
Gwendolen. In “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Jack Worthing is
the protagonist of the play because it is his character that dominates
the narrative. His pursuit to marry Gwendolen, and the conflicts and
struggles he goes up against to reach his ultimate goal, are traits
which develop his character into being the protagonist.
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