Summarize the denouement of The Importance of Being Earnest.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By definition the denouement of work of fiction is the resolution of the conflicts and the wrapping up of any other unsettled issues in the story.  In the case of this play, the central conflict has been the fact that both Algernon and Jack have become engaged to two women who both think they are engaged to an Ernest Worthing (who doesn't actually exist in the first place!). Jack/Ernest has the further complication of wanting to marry Gwendolyn, whose mother refuses to allow her daughter to marry someone with no family name of social relations to secure his place in society.  Once both girls realize they have been duped, they both retreat from the men, but they rather quickly forgive the "Ernest" lie and continue on with their romances. 

The final denouement of the story comes from the story of Miss Prism.  Up until the very end of the play, she seemed to just a minor character of little consequence, but Lady Bracknell, Gwendolyn's mother, realizes that Miss Prism is the same Miss Prism who "misplaced" her nephew when he was a baby.  She confused him with her manuscript and left him in a big hand bag that she then accidently left in a train station.  Therefore, it is revealed that Jack Worthing is actually a Moncrieff, thus he DOES have a family name of social status.  The final piece of the story comes from the fact that when they ask what his real first name is, it is revealed that he was named after his father, Ernest Moncrieff, so he really IS named Ernest.  Gwendolyn couldn't be happier and Jack can now, with earnest, say his name is Ernest and that he has a brother -- Algernon. 

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The very last page of the play doesn't quite explain it all, but there is one final realization that the reader should pick up on.  As Jack reads from the book the names of the men in the army lists of the period, he reads down through the names alphabetically.  As he reaches the name of Moncrieff, he hesitates when he sees the name, then the says the first two names of General Moncrieff: Ernest John.  Then the stage directions say he "Puts book very quietly down and speaks quite calmly." He's obviously making it up.  He could have shown everyone, but he very slyly closes the book and sets it down.  The last few lines are when Lady Bracknell realizes what he's done and says, "My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality."  He replies that he has finally realized the "importance of being earnest."  Notice the spelling of EARNEST.  He took advantage so that he could get what he wanted and needed.  So he lied!  That was final ending.

quddoos | Student

The exposition of the play, Act I, introduces the main character, John Worthing-“Ernest” and presents the major conflict: he wants to marry aristocratic Gwendolen but her mother does not approve. Furthermore, she loves him because of his name. Here is the first example of irony. Jack is not really an earnest man, thought he calls himself “Ernest,” and Gwendolen does not really want to marry an earnest man, but a man earnest is name only. 

The rising action of the plot occurs throughout Act II, and is the longest part of the plot. During the rising action Algernon complicates the conflict because he arrives at Jack’s country house and calls himself “Ernest.” This is an impediment because, soon, Gwendolen arrives, and because Algernon has proposed to Cecily as Ernest, Gwendolen is bound to-first, not want to marry Jack because of his duplicity, and second, find out that his name is really not Ernest. 

The climactic moment is when the women confront the men about what they have discovered by talking-they can not both be Ernest Worthing. The men confess and the women retreat 

The women easily forgive the men and the denouement arises with a surprise ending. The ending can be referred to as “Deus ex Machina”(God from machine), which is a highly improbable ending. The chance of Jack really being whom he pretended all along, not to mention Algernon’s brother, not to mention Lady Bracknell and Miss Prism meeting on this fortuitous occasion-are all unlikely occurrences. Also in the resolution, is an excellent example of the understatement, which occurs throughout. To Miss Prism, it does not seem to be a grave occurrence that she switched a baby and her novel, losing both priceless items. 

This play is equipped with many, many epithets-paradoxical, witty phrases. These phrases serve to add to the comedy value of the play. An example if one of these phrases is when Cecily says to Algernon: “Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement.” (Act II). This is humorous, because to Victorians-as well as to ourselves-it is important to keep business engagements. Yet, this statement is not amusing to the characters in the play.

username5 | Student

This is not what happened.

asteen76 | Student

Wow this was a very detailed and thoughfull answer, and after it im not even gona answer it cus yours was so good. Well done.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

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