The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

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By the end of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, has Jack learned the importance of being Ernest, earnest, or both?

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jhussung eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While it is true that by the end of the play Jack has fully taken on the name Ernest, it is harder to say that he really has chosen to be earnest. His lies have all turned out to be true, but he told them believing that they were lies, and it was only through happy coincidence that they turned out to be true. Jack shows an incredible willingness to spin fictions, and the play suggests that whether Jack is seen as earnest or not has more to do with chance than it does with Jack's own values. Truth was less important to him than convenience, and in the end, the truth happened to be convenient. One could argue that he learned the importance of being earnest not as a moral lesson but as a practical one. That is, even if he didn't choose to be honest for honesty's sake, there's a convenience to not telling lies, especially if the truth conveniently happens to be exactly the lie you chose to make up.

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As Gwendolen hints, if Jack has indeed learned anything by the end of the play, he is sure to...

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