The Importance of Being Earnest
Versions of Reality: Romance Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Miss Prism: Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days.
Cecily: Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily? I don't like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.
Miss Prism: The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means. (II.13-15)
Miss Prism defines for us exactly what fictional romances mean – "the good ended happily, and the bad unhappily." This is how both Gwendolen and Cecily picture their lives ending, with happily-ever-afters. Also, the fact that Miss Prism wrote a romantic three-volume novel suggests that she was once an idealistic girl.
Cecily: You see, it [her diary] is simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy. But pray, Ernest, don't stop. I delight in taking down from dictation. I have reached 'absolute perfection'. You can go on. I am quite ready for more. (II.198)
As we previously established, Cecily’s diary is a storehouse for all of her fantasies. Before Algernon came along, they were just that – unattainable fantasies. But now that Algernon has taken on the identity of "Ernest," she is closer than ever to achieving her romanticized love.
Cecily: You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest. [Algernon rises, Cecily also.] There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest. (II.233)
Like Gwendolen, Cecily admits that "it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love someone whose name was Ernest." In fact, Cecily's next words echo verbatim Gwendolen’s whimsical wish for her own Ernest. That Cecily desires exactly the same thing as Gwendolen clues us in that these two female characters are foils.