Importance of Being Ernest Literature Notes

Lit Notes

Phase one

1.) Jack Worthing~ Worthing was discovered as an infant by Mr. Thomas Cardew. He found him in a handbag in the cloakroom of a railway station in London. Jack grew up to be a seemingly responsible and respectable young man. He is a major landowner and Justice of the Peace in Hertfordshire. He also owns a country estate there. In Hertfordshire, where he is known by what he imagines to be his real name, Jack, he is a pillar of the community and is guardian to Mr. Cardew’s granddaughter, Cecily. Jack also has other duties and people who depend on him, including servants, tenants, farmers, and local clergyman. For years, jack has pretended to have an irresponsible younger brother named Ernest. In fact, he himself is the reprobate brother Ernest. Ernest is the name Jack goes by in London. The fictional brother is Jack’s alibi, his excuse for disappearing from Hertfordshire and going off to London to escape his responsibilities and indulge in exactly the sort of behavior he pretends to disapprove of in his mischevious brother. More than any other character in the play, Jack Worthing represents conventional Victorian values. Jack wants others to think he adheres to such notions as duty and honor, but he hypocritically mocks as earnest. What Wilde was actually satirizing through Jack was how general tolerance for hypocrisy was in a conventional Victorian morality. Jack uses his alter-ego Ernest to keep his honorable image intact. Ernest also enables Jack to escape the boundaries of his reality and act as he wouldn’t dare under his real identity. Ernest provides a convenient excuse and disguise for Jack. Jack wants to be seen as upright and moral, but he doesn’t care what lies he has to tell his loved ones in order for him to be able to misbehave as earnest. Even though Ernest has always been Jack’s unsavory alter ego, as the play progresses Jack aspires to become Ernest, in name if not by his behavior. That is until he seeks to marry Gwendolen....