Character Analysis - Male Characters in "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Topics: The Importance of Being Earnest, Love, Moncrieff and Hood Pages: 4 (1015 words) Published: November 11, 2013
An earnest person is someone who practices diligence, seriousness, and above all sincerity. That being said, it is difficult to find a male character in the play who possesses all three qualities of earnestness. Despite this, the lead characters of The Importance of Being Earnest entertained and endeared audiences for over one hundred years.

Jack Worthing’s Childhood:

During Act One, protagonist Jack Worthing reveals a most unusual and amusing backstory:

As a baby, he was accidentally abandoned in a handbag at a railway station. A wealthy man, Thomas Cardew, discovered and adopted the child. The child was named Worthing, after the seaside resort which Cardew visited. Jack Worthing grew up to become a wealthy land-owner and investor. Jack also became the legal guardian of Cardew’s granddaughter, Cecily. Jack’s Double Life:

Double identities are commonplace throughout Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Despite his façade of high moral character, Jack Worthing has been living a lie.

As the central character of the play, Jack might seem serious at first glance. He is far more proper and less ridiculous than his dandified friend, Algernon Moncrieff. In many productions of Earnest, the protagonist has been portrayed in a somber, straight-faced manner. Dignified actors such as Sir John Gielgud and Colin Firth have brought Jack Worthing to life on stage and screen, adding an air of dignity and refinement to the character. But don’t let appearances fool you.

Jack’s relatives and neighbors believe him to be a moral and productive member of society. Yet, Jack’s first line in the play explains his true motivation for escaping his country home for the excitement of the city:

JACK: Oh pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? So, despite his stuffy outward appearance, Jack is a hedonist. He is also a liar. He has invented an alter-ego, a fictional brother named “Ernest.” His life in the country has been so tedious that he wanted...
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