What are the similarities between "The Importance of Being Earnest" and Wilde's life including every act of the play?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whoah! This would be a thesis on its own, so I will give you the most important points. HOWEVER- The book that you might want to Google which will have way much more juicy stuff is Neil McKenna's The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde; Richard Ellman's Oscar Wilde, and his own Grandson, Merlin Holland's book "The Irish Peacock and the Scarlet Marquess: When Oscar Wilde went to trial" as well as H.Montgomery Hyde's "The Trials of Oscar Wilde".

Those books intrinsically analyze The Importance of Being Earnest to Wilde, as well as The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the Portrait of Mr. W.H.

Here are some pointers:

1. In the story, last names such as "Worthing",and  "Bracknell" refer to cities in which someone in Oscar's circle was, and whom he was representing in the story. In this case, Lady Bracknell was referring to Oscar's male lover's mother, Lady Queensberry, who was in Bracknell during the time Oscar wrote the story. The story was written in....Worthing! (Makes you wonder who Oscar really identified with- people say he was Algernon, but he always has said he is the passive, not the active character.

2. Speaking of passive and active, there is Algernon- the aristocrat who lived above his means, was heartless to his family, as deceitful as Earnest, but more brash about it- Again, Oscar has always claimed to be the passive of the ying yang,..so the general opinion for all true Wildeans is that Algernon, contrary to popular belief, is Lord Alfred Douglas personified (Lord Alfred suffered the same demons as Algernon, and he was also younger than Oscar- much so the way Lord Alfred and Oscar).

3. At the time this play was written, Oscar was terribly hard-up for money (Ellman, 69) and for this reason he used the help of Robert Ross, his eternal friend and even his own manservant to use the wits for the play. It is said that Robbie Ross created many  of the epigrams, and the manservant ended up being as funny as Oscar- hence, the character of Lane, ALgernon's own manservant- (the name "Lane" is the same as Oscar's publisher, John Lane, with whom he would always quarrel.

4. THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT: However, is the Bunburyism and deceit that both Algernon and Earnest exhibit in the play. They both have double lives, much like Lord Alfred and Oscar had double lives of respectability during the day, while visiting Little College Street #13 to indulge at Alfred Taylor's male prostitution site for rent boys.

Since Algernon's coinage "Bunburying" implies lying about where you are going, there is plenty of Wilde's real life there too. Like I said, the subject has been central topic for plenty books on the subject, so I strongly suggest you look at those books I recommended.

Enclosed are more Wilde websites.

Read the study guide:
The Importance of Being Earnest

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question