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September 10, 2005

Induced Schizophrenia

Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Lady Bracknell: "I dare not even suspect, Dr. Chasuble. I need hardly tell you that in families of high position strange coincidences are not supposed to occur. They are hardly considered the thing."

Lady Bracknell and her desire to live by high society "supposed to's" constantly aggravate everyone else's situation. While it is her duty to make sure Gwendolyn finds a good man, she cares far too much about how Jack measures up to this intangible societal standard.

Lady Bracknell: "The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion—has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now-but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society."

Jack may have mysterious beginnings, but isn't his refined speech and sophisticated thought process enough to prove at least some level of education and potential? After all, when Lady B. finds out about Jack's true origins she immediately accepts him. It's as if his character is completely unimportant as long as his father was a general.
Also, her lack of respect for Gwendolyn's emotions is appalling. To Lady Bracknell love, "is hardly a matter that [one] could be allowed to arrange for [one]self."

Lastly, what is the meaning of the play's closing line?
Earnest, by defenition, means "marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness." Does Jack mean that he is finished "Bunburying" and has decided to live just one life? Or is it referring to his finally being engaged to Gwendolyn, after having been trying earnest to be so?


Posted by DavidDenninger at September 10, 2005 10:40 AM

Comments

David,

Perhaps the last line suggests the play's title: "The Importance of Being Earnest." What did the psuedo- Ernests in the play learn about not being sincere? Somehow I think the last lines are indicative of that. What do you think?

Posted by: Katie Aikins at September 11, 2005 10:49 PM

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