The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Respect and Reputation 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: My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you. (I.35)
Because girls are under such strict moral codes in the Victorian era, it is dishonorable for them to be seen flirting publicly with men, especially single men. On the flip side, it is also socially questionable for a man to be seen flirting with a woman since that would be interpreted as leading her astray.
Algernon: Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don't think it right. (I.47)
According to Algernon, "girls never marry the men they flirt with" because "girls don’t think it right." This shows that the men that women marry are different from the type of men they flirt with. Flirtation usually means that two people are attracted to each other. If girls don’t marry the men they flirt with, this means they marry men to whom they are not attracted.
Jack: …you have no right whatsoever to read what is written inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case. (I.59)
Unlike Algernon, Jack has a sense of morality, which he defines as what is "gentlemanly." To Jack, it is dishonorable or "ungentlemanly" for a man to pry into another’s private life. He distinguishes between the public sphere and the private in a way that Algernon does not – as evidenced by Algernon’s later desire to peek into Cecily’s diary.