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Please help me analyze the following quotation from The Importance of Being Earnest:...

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 7, 2013 at 10:00 PM via web

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Please help me analyze the following quotation from The Importance of Being Earnest:

"Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth you are serious about I haven't got the retmost idea. About everything I should fancy. You have such an absolutely trivial nature"

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

Posted June 8, 2013 at 12:42 AM (Answer #1)

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This quote is Algernon's reproach to Jack after the two men's real identities are exposed by Cecily and Gwendolen.

In Algernon's opinion, even with the exposure, this is his most successful Bunburying ever, which makes Jack very upset upon hearing it.

The men start arguing back and forth, with Jack continuously reproaching Algernon about his Bunburying and about having gone to Jack's own home to do this.

Algernon calls himself a "serious Bunburyist" and this is when Jack gets very angry. Using taunting to retort, Algernon says that at least he is serious about something but what he is serious about happens to be his personal entertainment, which is his Bunburying.

Saying

one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying

alludes to the comedic nature of the play, which intends to find triviality in seriousness and vice versa. Therefore, what Algernon is saying is that if one must choose to take something seriously, why not take fun seriously in order to continuously do exactly what you want to do. This also denotes the shameless nature of Algernon, whose hedonism he feels quite proud of.

When Algernon, angrily, continues to argue with Jack, he is basically telling him that Jack, since he does not Bunbury, could not possibly have a life as much fun as Algernon's.

With the words

What on earth you are serious about I haven't got the remotest idea. About everything I should fancy. You have such an absolutely trivial nature

Algernon is saying that, since Jack obviously does not have as much fun in life, he must therefore be serious about everything. Since Algernon does not take anything that is serious with actual "seriousness" he calls Jack "trivial". In the play, seriousness is intended to be trivial and this is why Algernon chooses such epigram: anything that is meant to be treated with careful consideration is mocked. The way in which Algernon uses the words is part of Wilde's way of using words to contradict and become satirical.

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