The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Algernon: Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.
Lane: I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.
Algernon: Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that?
Lane: I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person. (I.9-12)
The question here is whether or not marriage is demoralizing. This is one of the main questions that keeps popping up throughout the play. Lane doesn't think that marriage is "demoralizing." But Lane’s opinions are questionable since his marriage did not succeed.
Jack: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.
Algernon: I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.
Jack: How utterly unromantic you are! (I.36-38)
Algernon seems to think that proposal and marriage are items of "business," and not "pleasure." He thinks of marriage as a social obligation he must fulfill in order to maintain a respectable name. Jack, on the other hand, has a much more positive view of marriage (possibly because he’s already met the love of his life); he seems to regard marriage as romantic.
Algernon: Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury. A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it.
Jack: That is nonsense. If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen, and she is the only girl I ever saw in my life that I would marry, I certainly won't want to know Bunbury.
Algernon: Then your wife will. You don't seem to realise, that in married life three is company and two is none. (I.94-96)
Algernon’s skepticism about marriage is revealed in his comments about Bunbury. The fictional character, Bunbury, is used as an excuse for a person to get out of his responsibilities. The fact that he thinks Bunbury will be a useful tool for a husband or wife might reveal that he does not think couples are faithful to each other after matrimony. In contrast, Jack thinks that married couples can be perfectly happy and faithful to each other.