What does it mean to be true to one's self in The Importance of Being Earnest?in what ways our self is a product of nature? and in what ways is it nurtured?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nature versus Nurture is the debate that has always puzzled everyone, from scientists to philosophers. Are we genetically and physically prone to be and behave in a certain way, or is our upbringing  what ultimately determines our fate?

In the play The Importance of Being Earnest the debate of nature versus nurture would apply to the characters of Algernon and Jack in a very interesting way.  Algernon, always well-bred and belonging to a family of aristocratic pedigree, has never lacked a thing in his life. Yet, he has developed bad behaviors in which he lives above his means, over eats, and does his best to never hold responsibilities. He is careless about his family, or his obligations. He also leads a happy double life.

Contrastingly, we have Jack: No less mischievous than Algernon, he is not aware that he is actually Algernon's older brother, and a part of the Moncrieff family. Yet, although he grew up without his natural family around him, he still developed quite similarly to Algernon in terms of his tendency to over eat, overspend, and cause trouble. However, Jack was able to develop a sense of responsibility over Cecily and her estate, which is what sets him apart from Algernon.

This being said, would  Algernon and Jack developed with more similarities had they been raised together? Or was their behavior already bound to occur simply because they belonged to a specific bloodline? Since it is nearly impossible to come up with an accurate answer, it is safe to argue that both men were the products of their own decision making processes and that both nature and nurture certainly must have played a role in such them. They are equally important.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

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