| Quote #1
Gwendolen: For me you have always had an irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you. [Jack looks at her in amazement.] We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you. (I.141)
Gwendolen’s "ideal" of loving the "name of Ernest" is not based on anything logical. Instead, her love of the name is aesthetic. As Jack amply proves, he is far from earnest and does not really deserve a name which means "honest."
| Quote #2
Gwendolen: The story of your romantic origin, as related to me by mamma, with unpleasing comments, has naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature. (I.272)
Jack’s mysterious origins do not seem shady or even problematic to Gwendolen, but instead feed her fantasies of a hero with all the romantic mystery of a secret history. Of course, this secret past is not romantic for the more realistic Jack or Lady Bracknell, for whom it is an impediment towards marrying Gwendolen.
| Quote #3
Cecily: I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down, I should probably forget all about them. (II.10)
Cecily revels in her secret, romantic life where she controls everything that happens. Unsatisfied with her mundane life, where she does nothing but study, Cecily makes up a series of romantic escapades featuring her secret lover "Ernest."