How can I write a clear, well-organized, well-developed essay on the notion of “earnestness” in The Importance of Being Earnest?

Expert Answers
mrs-tolley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You will need to do several steps to complete this assignment: Choose, plan, draft, and revise/edit your essay.

First, it is often difficult with an assignment like this to choose which essay to write. Sometimes one option jumps out at you because you are curious about the topic, but other times they all seem equally difficult. In this case, your best bet is to do some brainstorming for EACH topic. Ask yourself:

  •          What do you already know about the topic?
  •          What questions do you have about the topic?

Write down as much as you can in POINT FORM for each of the three essay topic options.

By brainstorming, you should discover which of the options you know the most about, or which is most interesting to you.

Now, select your essay topic and take the ideas you brainstormed. The next step is to PLAN your essay. I'm going to use your second topic, "Analyze the notion of 'earnestness' in the play," for an example.

An essay plan should be in the form of an outline. You can begin with the "five paragraph essay" structure, which can be used as a basis for nearly any literary essay. Write down the following headings and sub-headings, and then fill them in with KEY WORDS in point form for your essay. Don't use complete sentences in an outline. Using keywords in point form will allow you to get all your ideas down on paper and organized effectively quickly. You shouldn't write sentences / paragraphs until you begin to draft your essay. Here is the format of the five paragraph essay outline (attached).

Here are some suggestions for an essay on "Analyze the notion of 'earnestness' in the play" to show you how to fill in the outline using point form:

1. Introduction

  • Hook - wordplay - Is it really important to be earnest, or just to be named Ernest?
  • Background - The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, 1895, "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People," one-to-two sentence summary of plot.
  • Thesis statement - include three main points - Being earnest is not as important as being Ernest: Four main characters extremely dishonest, characters consistently lie about important things, dialogue is so frivolous actors have to display frivolous performances while keeping straight (serious) demeanors.

2. Body paragraph 1

  • Point - Jack, Algernon, Miss Prism, and Cecily are each dishonest
  • -everything works out perfectly in the end
  • -shows that Wilde considers earnestness utterly unimportant.
  • Example - Jack hides ward - Cecily - from Algernon, - thinks Algernon terrible influence on Cecily
  • -Algernon and Cecily fall in love - marry - anyway.
  • -Jack creates fictional brother - uses bro's bad habits to cover up inappropriate activities in town - nonexistent Ernest drives the love between Algernon and Cecily.  
  • Explanation - despite being introduced in a cloud of dishonesty (Algernon posing as fake brother Ernest), A & C become a happy couple.
  • -name Ernest more important to C than actual honesty (earnestness)

Finish the outline in the same style, adding more information from your brainstorming and from your reading of the play. You can use direct quotations or summary/paraphrasing from the play for "examples." Make sure you always explain how your examples support your points.

The five-paragraph essay is a minimum. You can include more body paragraphs with more main points. In addition, the outline I've given is a minimum. You can add additional examples and explanations to each body paragraph to support the main point of that paragraph.

The next step is to draft (type) the essay. After that you should re-read your essay and revise it: make sure you have given enough details. Add more details, such as additional examples or more detailed explanations, as necessary. Delete anything that is extraneous. Finally, you should re-read your essay a final time and edit (proofread.) Check and correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

I hope this helps get you started. You can find out more information and read detailed analyses of The Importance of Being Earnest on eNotes to help you develop your essay.



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