The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

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In the play The Importance of Being Earnest, explain the theme of manners and morality.

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One of the funniest things about Wilde's play is the theme it conveys, that manners seem to be so much more important to the upper class than morality. Characters routinely do that which is proper rather than that which is good. Algernon has a very proper excuse for missing his aunt's dinner party: he is visiting his ailing, invalid friend named Bunbury. It is all quite appropriate and mannerly. However Bunbury is not actually a real person, he is a fiction invented by Algernon so that he has an acceptable reason to escape dreary, obligatory social functions. Bunbury, in other words, is a lie. Algernon nods to propriety and etiquette by inventing a socially-acceptable reason to miss the event, but he has no concern for a code of ethics that would prohibit him from lying.

Jack does the same thing with his invention of a dissipated brother named Ernest. He can come and "be" Ernest in the city where he does not have to uphold the high moral tone he feels is required in the country. Meanwhile,...

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