The Importance of Escape
Oscar Wilde’s play entitled “The Importance of Being Earnest” illustrates the concept of dual personality, fantasy, love, and lies. Jack, Algernon, Gwendolyn, and Cecily all live in lies. They are manipulated by their fantasies and desire for perfect relationship and love. Jack, the protagonist in the play, is the root of lies because of his imaginary brother named Earnest. Algernon uses the name to win Cecily, while Gwendolyn and Cecily are both fascinated by this name because it expresses strength and perfection of manhood. Due to their search and desire to have Earnest, the male and female characters escape from the reality. Therefore, Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest portrays a gender doubled theme of escape as the male characters escape through alter-egos and female characters privately through their imaginations. Jack escapes from reality using his alter-ego to become free from his responsibilities and obligations. In the first part of the play, readers learn that Jack is placed in a complex situation: “When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects… a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one's health or one’s happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes” (Act I). Jack escapes from his country and changes his identity to Earnest to perform the things that he wants to experience. For Jack, being a guardian and a landowner is a great obligation for his ward and people. Through his alter-ego, Jack obtains freedom because he becomes the opposite of his real self—the liberated and careless individual that he could not demonstrate in reality. Aside from Jack, Gwendolyn also escapes from her real world, through her imagination, to find her true love. When she learns that Jack’s name is Earnest, she...
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