The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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?

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,083 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

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.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,130 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

M.P. Ossa, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer, ESL/TEFL Instructor

bookM.A. from Chapman University


calendarEducator since 2008

write5,703 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

check Approved by eNotes Editorial