In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, can we say that Jack and Algy are equally immoral as far as their double life is concerned?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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As Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest is intended as a light comedy, we probably should not look for fine moral judgements. Both Algy and Jack are self-centred, selfish, and not particularly truthful. Algy and Jack both lie in order to be able to have fun and avoid things they find boring without having to create social tension. Part of their dishonesty has to do with lack of social courage and desire to preserve harmony. In neither case do their lies actually harm anyone. The cases seem to me morally similar. One could say they were morally neutral because part of the reason for the lying is desire to avoid hurting others’s feelings and part desire to avoid social unpleasantness. Neither of the two young men is particularly admirable, but neither is actually daringly immoral either. Excusing yourself from attending a dull party by pretending to be visiting a sick friend hardly counts as moral turpitude.


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