According to Lady Bracknell, who are Jack’s parents?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Oscar Wilde's farcical comedy of manners, when Lady Brackwell learns that Jack was found in a large, black leather hand-bag in a cloak-room at Victoria Station [a major train station in London], she is scandalized and informs him that he is unacceptable as a suitor for her daughter because of his being merely "Found." Further, she intimates that Jack's parents are the "a cloak room" where the bag was located and that he is a parcel.

Lady Bracknell: You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl brought up with the utmost care—to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel?

As the consummate Victorian socialite whom Wilde satirizes, Lady Brackwell questions Jack about his parentage and is appalled that he does not know who his father and mother are. Peremptorily, she suggests that Jack "find" his parents as she adds that Lord Blackwell and she would never dream of allowing their daughter to marry "into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel." Of course, the implication of her words are that Lady Blackwell thinks that Jack Worthing is not worthy to marry her daughter Gwendolyn since he does not possess a name written in her notebook, in which she records the names of proper suitors who are Victorians of position and money.

The irony of all this trivial pursuit of name and position comes back to embarrass and thwart Lady Blackwell in her other pursuits of money and social status for her daughter, as well as her nephew Algernon who wishes to marry Jack's ward, Cecily Cardew. For, as it turns out in this farcical comedy, Jack is actually a reputable man of position who is the long lost son of Lady Blackwell's sister. His forgetful governess, Miss Letitia Prism, misplaced baby Jack, placing him in a tote intended for a manuscript to be sent to a publisher and placing the manuscript in the baby carriage instead.

Read the study guide:
The Importance of Being Earnest

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question