How does Wilde develop a contrast between the characters Algernon and Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest?

Wilde develops a contrast between Algernon and Jack through the use of irony. Despite the fact that the two men do remarkably similar, unethical things, only Algernon is open about his lack of integrity while Jack adopts a superior moral tone that his actual behaviors do not support.

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In my mind, Algernon and Jack are a lot more similar than they are different, which makes sense considering that they are actually—unbeknownst to them for most of the play—brothers. Ironically, Jack seems to adopt a higher moral tone than Algernon, despite the fact that they basically do the same...

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In my mind, Algernon and Jack are a lot more similar than they are different, which makes sense considering that they are actually—unbeknownst to them for most of the play—brothers. Ironically, Jack seems to adopt a higher moral tone than Algernon, despite the fact that they basically do the same thing: invent a person who gives them an escape from uncomfortable or restrictive social engagements and responsibilities. Both men lie about their identities—each one claiming to be the elusive (and totally imaginary) Ernest Worthing—to woo the women they love: both Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew both claim to have always wanted to marry someone by the name of Ernest. Both even try to arrange secret baptisms so that they can be rechristened with the name Ernest! Algernon, at least, seems somewhat more forthcoming about his relative lack of integrity; he seems to take very little seriously in life and makes a joke out of anything. Jack, however, maintains this sort of holier-than-thou attitude despite the fact that he is just as dishonest as Algernon. He really has no right to think of himself as somehow more ethical or proper than Algernon because the two are remarkably similar; thus, Wilde develops a contrast between them through the use of irony.

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