The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Line) Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Cecily: Miss Prism has just been complaining of a slight headache. I think it would do her so much good to have a short stroll with you in the Park, Dr. Chasuble.
Miss Prism: Cecily, I have not mentioned anything about a headache. (II.21-22)
Cecily makes up false facts to get out of doing her lessons and to encourage a relationship between Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. The success of her deceit depends on her ability to read people; the fact that she does get Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble to leave her is a testament to her powers of persuasion. Although her deceit is not as serious as Jack’s or Algernon’s, she lies for the same reasons—to get out of tedious or unpleasant situations. This makes her a perfect match for Algernon.
Cecily: Your brother Ernest…arrived about half an hour ago.
Jack: What nonsense! I haven't got a brother.
Cecily: Oh, don't say that. However badly he may have behaved to you in the past he is still your brother. You couldn't be so heartless as to disown him. I'll tell him to come out. And you will shake hands with him, won't you, Uncle Jack? (II.133-135)
The fact that Jack lied (and later revealed the truth) to Algernon gave the latter the opportunity to impersonate Ernest. Had Jack not lied, perhaps Algernon would never have had the chance to court Cecily as he did. As it stands, not only does Cecily believe in Ernest, but she's also on his side—scolding her Uncle Jack for being "so heartless as to disown him."
Jack: [Slowly and hesitatingly] Gwendolen—Cecily—it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind. However, I will tell you quite frankly that I have no brother Ernest. I have no brother at all. (II.348)
An adept and habitual liar, Jack does not hold truth and honesty in high regard. Here, he comes out and says it. To him, lying is a more efficient and perhaps more noble way to live one’s life. This is, of course, the opposite of conventional thinking.