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In Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," how could Jack and Algernon's...

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valorsa | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 26, 2012 at 9:31 PM via web

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In Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," how could Jack and Algernon's relationship be seen as a euphemism for a homosexual relationship?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:18 PM (Answer #1)

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Jack and Algernon's relationship is unclear as to how they met and became friends, but it must have been when Jack was "Bunburying" in town at some point in the past. What is known, is that Jack and Algernon both used the excuse to visit an imaginary man to escape their daily lives. This created a double life for each of them; and, double lives were exactly what homosexuals had to live back in the late 1800's because that lifestyle was considered criminal and punishable by law. Also, Algernon is quite upset about the topic of marriage when he finds out that Jack loves Gwendolen and wants to propose in Act I. Algernon criticizes marriage in a sarcastic tone, but may be showing contempt for possibly losing the relationship status with Jack in the process by saying, "I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. . . The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact" (enotes eText, pg. 8). Then, after Algy explains "Bunburying" to Jack, he tells him that if Jack doesn't keep doing it during marriage, then his wife surely will. This suggests that no one can be happy in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship. Further, Algy goes to Jack's house in the country secretively, with the intent to cause more trouble for Jack and to continue his charade. A euphemism is a more polite way of presenting a difficult fact; hence, the aforementioned examples seem to dance around the possible homosexual relationship without actually confronting it.

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