Book Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest

Wilde, Oscar
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Over the years, I have been assigned to read a multitude of books and plays for English classes - some of those writing pieces I have never committed to and read thoroughly. This year in AP Literature, The Importance of Being Earnest was assigned and was not amongst those writing pieces. In many of the English classes I have enrolled in, there are numerous books or plays - especially Shakespeare - that I have read which might be interesting but the diction is archaic. The words and phrases are not used modernly and therefore, what is written is difficult to understand in the absence of translations or SparkNotes. Despite being published in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest was an easy read because the play is easily humourous.

The play pursues wealthy and bored protagonists, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, as they court two women, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, pretending to be men named Ernest. Their “Bunburying” depicts the theme that idle hands indulge in mischief. Jack, who resides in the country, introduces a devious and unruly brother named Ernest who resides in the city so that he can be reckless in one place while also being arguably mature in another. Algernon pretends to have to check in on a pale and sickly fellow named Bunbury when he is introduced to responsibilities or events he does not desire to participate in. Eventually, upon hearing of Cecily Cardew, Jack’s ward, from Jack, he pretends to be Ernest as well. The two characters utilize their separate versions of "Bunburying" for their own pleasure rather than for being productive, depicting their own values of dishonesty and deceit.

The characters are self-concerned which is unfortunate because during the 1890s, the time in which this play is set, the Victorian Era endured multiple widespread conflicts including overpopulation, poor sanitary conditions, child labor, and religious insecurity - none of which are mentioned by any of the four characters.
Ultimately, the theme of the play may be applied to the modern era which permits The Importance of Being Earnest to be more relevant when you compare the Victorian upper class to, for example, the Kardashians or other celebrities.
The humorous aspect of the play was Oscar Wilde’s use of epigrams, or clever and paradoxical expressions. Predominantly delivered by Algernon, my favorite of the epigrams was “The amount of women who flirt with their own husbands is scandalous. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.”

Additionally, this play is a short read with only about 75 pages.

Reviewer's Name
Isabella W