The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does the playwright Oscar Wilde present the relationship between Jack and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest?

Expert Answers info

Ester Baumgartner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)


calendarEducator since 2016

write782 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

Jack and Algernon are friends who seem to have known each other socially for a while; however, in Act I, we learn that Algernon doesn't know that Jack's name isn't actually Ernest Worthing (it's Jack). Once this detail is revealed, Algernon posits a key similarity: both men are Bunburyists. Jack is resistant to define himself in these terms, but the truth is that both men have either a second identity or a fictional friend/brother whom they can use to avoid social responsibility and pursue their playboy lifestyles. The main difference between the two characters in this scene is that Jack wants to "kill [his] brother" to marry Gwendolen: he wants to do away with the Ernest personality and legally change his name to Ernest. He wants to settle down with one woman and put away his irresponsible past. Algernon is more playful, while Jack is more serious. However, the characters speak to each other in a witty banter that is typical of both of their personalities.

Wilde puts these characters...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 761 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write1,493 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Tina Bishop, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Southern Utah University


calendarEducator since 2011

write2,337 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial