The Importance of Being Earnest
Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Algernon: [Stammering] Oh! No! Bunbury doesn't live here. Bunbury is somewhere else at present. In fact, Bunbury is dead. (III.49)
Interestingly, Algernon lies to free himself from future lying. By killing off the fictional Bunbury, Algernon is setting himself up to speak the truth for the rest of his life. He effectively lies so that he can live a better and more ethical life with Cecily.
Cecily: Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always admit to twenty when I go to evening parties.
Lady Bracknell: You are perfectly right in making some slight alteration. Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating . . . (III.95-96)
The fact that Cecily admits to this white lie – concealing her true age – might show that she is not ashamed of telling a fib in the first place. But it also feeds into the stereotype that many women might try to seem younger and more beautiful in social situations. Here, Cecily wants to create the illusion that she is more mature, worldly, and perhaps more suitable as a prospective wife.
Jack: The Army Lists of the last forty years are here. These delightful records should have been my constant study. [Rushes to bookcase and tears the books out.] M. Generals . . . Mallam, Maxbohm, Magley, what ghastly names they have - Markby, Migsby, Mobbs, Moncrieff! Lieutenant 1840, Captain, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, General 1869, Christian names, Ernest John. [Puts book very quietly down and speaks quite calmly.] I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn't I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally is Ernest. (III.170)
This is perhaps the most ironic revelation of the whole play. It shows that Jack has not been lying this entire time to Gwendolen. His name really is Ernest. The pun comes into play. Jack has been earnest about being Ernest.