In The Importance of Being Earnest, how are Algernon and Jack different from each other?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although there are definite similarities between Jack and Algernon (Algy), including that both are "Bunburyists" and both pretend to be Earnest Worthing, Jack and Algy are quite different. While Algy enjoys talking nonsense and has no obvious redeeming qualities, Jack has a more serious side. Jack has come to town to propose to Gwendolyn, and he thinks getting engaged is romantic, but Algy doesn't "see anything romantic in proposing." Jack has responsibility for his ward, Cecily, and therefore finds that he must "adopt a high moral tone on all subjects." Algy has no responsibilities and therefore doesn't feel the need to even pretend to be virtuous. Although both Algy and Jack become engaged to their sweethearts in the play, Jack's feelings for Gwendolyn are undoubtedly deeper and more sincere than Algy's, since Jack has been pursuing Gwendolyn for some time while Algy has only just met Cecily. Both men are independently wealthy through no effort of their own. However, since Algy was born into an aristocratic family, he seems to take his wealth for granted. Jack, a foundling, seems to express sincere gratitude for the upbringing and inheritance he received from his benefactor. Jack seems to display a sincere desire, at least initially, to protect Cecily from the corrupting influence of Algy, which is why he won't give Algy his address in the country. Algy seeks out the young ward of his friend with the express intention of corrupting her by wooing her under a false identity. So although Jack and Algy are alike, and indeed turn out to be brothers, Jack displays more seriousness and sincerity than Algy does.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

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