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Can someone give me examples of puns from The Importance of Being Earnest?If possible...

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ali28murphy | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:47 AM via web

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Can someone give me examples of puns from The Importance of Being Earnest?

If possible could you give me the act?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:59 AM (Answer #1)

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Here are four very popular ones. The one below shows that for the first time Jack has been honest about something without even trying nor wanting to. Since his "christian name" would be Earnest, like his father's, he had been technically telling the truth all along, which even was a shock to him.

Jack: On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest. (III.180-181)

(Act 3)- This is the part when Earnest discovers his father's name was Earnest, making him a true Earnest after all. The way he uses this pun is sort of to justify himself to Gwendoly and her mother, and perhaps to give himself a squeeze for actually telling the truth for once.

I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn't I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally is Ernest. (III.170)

Algernon figures that marriage is a demoralizing state, and throws a pun at it while commenting with Lane and placing emphasis on the champagne in married homes.

Algernon: Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the ... servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.

Lane: I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

The origins of Jack back in the railway station make Lady Bracknell mock him, and as far as his possible relationship with Gwendolyn, she remarks to the end of their acquaintance as a "Terminus", a double entendre which means both "end" and "terminal station" as in the one where he was found.

Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected ... with any of the larger railway stations in London? I merely desire information. Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus. [Jack looks perfectly furious, but restrains himself.] (III.61)

Hope this helps!

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mstokes | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 24, 2010 at 5:12 AM (Answer #2)

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The Importance of being Earnest contains more clever lines, puns, epigrams, and deft repartees than any other drama of modern times, but these are an accessory. A farce may be written without these additions, Wilde, the master craftsman has thrown them in for full measure.

A pun depends on playing on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.
“The Importance of Being Earnest”, the very title is a pun, the words conjure up visions of sermons, self-righteousness, and diligence. With such a serious title we expect a significant anti-comic element: earnestness, but the only earnest element in the play is a distant “homophonic cousin” Ernest, a name which both leading characters use dishonestly. This first pun, a taste of those to follow, has the flavour of rebellion. Wilde's satirical comedy, however, goes one step further. It rebels and reflects. While exploring the idea “that truth is entirely and absolutely a matter of style,” Wilde premises that “the importance of being is neither X nor Y, male nor female, Jack nor Ernest...but that identity has been mislaid somewhere between these culturally productive couplings. His witty puns permit his audience participate in a sparring contest  between the major characters.

The majority of Wilde's puns seem disturbingly true and part of a subtle but scathing satire of Victorian adolescent narrow-mindedness and self centred avoidance, but a few of them, peppered into the rest of the twists and turns of his dialogue, offer a refreshingly modern alternative.

Try the following for inspiration

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don't mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind."
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

"It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

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robyn-bird96 | Student, College Freshman | Salutatorian

Posted May 25, 2014 at 2:07 AM (Answer #5)

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Here are a couple of my favorite witticisms in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Jack: “My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist. It produces a false impression” (Act I)

Algernon: “Then your wife will. You don’t seem to realize, that in married life three is company and two is none” (Act I)

Lady Bracknell: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness” (Act I)

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