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The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. By the end of the play, has Jack really learned the importance of being earnest? Why or why not?
  2. What is each of the four main character’s relationship to reality? How do they cope, romanticize, or escape from it?
  3. What is the girls’ fascination with the name, Ernest? What does it have to do with their romantic idealizations? How are names used to indicate character (or not) in the play?
  4. In what way might the gender roles in Earnest reversed?
  5. What do the aristocracy in Earnest value? How does Wilde show that Jack and Cecily have the same kinds of values?
  6. Judging by the tone in Earnest, what is Wilde’s opinion of the aristocracy? Does he approve or disapprove of them?
  7. How do the aristocrats’ values clash directly with a more standard concept of respectability?
  8. What is the importance of the city/country split? What qualities do city-dwellers usually have? How about country folk? Do these stereotypes work in Earnest?
  9. What’s up with all the food fights? Why are they humorous?
  10. How are Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble products of society? What does this reveal about Victorian attitudes towards education?
  11. In the end, why doesn’t Cecily care that Algernon’s name isn’t Ernest?

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