The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Algernon: Yes; but this isn't your cigarette case. This cigarette case is a present from some one of the name of Cecily, and you said you didn't know any one of that name.
Jack: Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be my aunt.
Algernon: [Retreating to back of sofa] But why does she call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives at Tunbridge Wells? [Reading] 'From little Cecily with her fondest love.'
Jack: [Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it] My dear fellow, what on earth is there in that? Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt! That is absurd! For Heaven's sake give me back my cigarette case. [Follows Algernon round the room.]
Algernon: Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? 'From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.' There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I can't quite make out. Besides, your name isn't Jack at all; it is Ernest.
Jack: It isn't Ernest; it's Jack. (I.62-69)
Jack lies to cover up his double life. A simple white lie that he doesn’t know anyone named "Cecily" gets him into an incredibly messy situation. When he’s forced to admit he does know a "Cecily," he tries to pass her off as his aunt. But Algy, a fellow Bunburyist, eventually sniffs it all out and forces Jack to confess. What is most surprising is that Jack seems to have no shame about the lies he’s been feeding to Algernon for years.
Jack: […] When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It's one's duty to do so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one's health or one's happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. (I.83)
Jack reveals the reason behind his deceit. His life is torn between duty and pleasure. Being dutiful is excessively boring to Jack, so he created his younger brother, Ernest. With Ernest, he has a means of escaping the drab life of a legal guardian into the more interesting world of a social London.
Algernon: You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't be able to dine with you at Willis's to- night, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week. (I.88)
Bunbury is Algernon’s version of Ernest. Like Jack, Algernon also uses excuses about Bunbury to get out of familial responsibilities – like dining with his Aunt Augusta. He practices deceit, like Jack, to avoid unpleasant situations and create more pleasant ones for himself.