How do the characters in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest react to the subject of identity?Identity is used in the terms of self-perception and in terms of self in relation to others.
In Victorian England, identity was directly tied to one's social and economic status. Gwendoyn's mother even says at one point during Jack's interview that the threat during to old money was education. By "old money" she was referring to families who had inherited their money from noble ancestry throughout the years. The upper classes weren't populated with the most intelligent people; rather, they were those who had money and had had it a long time. This social status meant nothing to Jack and Algy, though, because upon hearing that each girl loved the name of Earnest, they both were easily decided to change their given names for the love of a woman. Here we see the clash of opinion between an older generation with a younger one that represents a transitioning period for the idea of identity. The two young ladies, in fact, were more upset about the lies than they were about discovering the true names of the men whom they loved. The play certainly presents solid themes of long tradition facing new ideas when it comes to identity.