Explain The Significance Of The Full Title Of The Play The Importance Of Being Earnest

What is the meaning of the title The Importance of Being Earnest?

The meaning of the title The Importance of Being Earnest is that there is something valuable in being earnest, or honest. This title is ironic, however, because the characters in the play are actually not honest. In the end, Jack remarks, "now I know the vital importance of being earnest," but in reality, he has lied, and his lies simply happened to turn out to be true statements.

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The full title of the play is The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. Wilde told Robert Ross that its theme was the idea:

That we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality.

This is obviously consonant with the way in which manners, morals, and audience expectations are constantly turned on their head throughout The Importance of Being Earnest. No one in the play is actually earnest. Gwendolen and Cecily both seem to believe that the most important quality in a romantic partner is a serious-sounding name, a level of frivolity which sets the moral tone of the play. Wilde's earlier plays had been much more melodramatic in both tone and content, attempting to address social problems in a similar fashion to George Bernard Shaw, who admired Wilde's earlier work but called this play "heartless."

There is some dispute about whether the word "earnest" is a reference to homosexuality. In...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 864 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 1, 2020
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