The Importance of Being Earnest Questions and Answers
by Oscar Wilde

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In Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest, who is Miss Prism and why is she so significant?

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Miss Prism is the governess and tutor of Cecily Cardew, Jack Worthing's excessively pretty eighteen-year-old ward, the daughter of the man who found him in a handbag in a railway station. When Lady Bracknell comes to Jack's country house in order to retrieve her daughter, Gwendolyn, Dr. Chasuble mentions Miss Prism's name, and Lady Bracknell demands to see her. It is revealed that Miss Prism, some twenty-eight years prior, left Lord and Lady Bracknell's house with a baby in a carriage. She never returned, though the baby carriage was recovered a few weeks later, containing a very sentimental three-volume novel. Miss Prism admits that this is true, adding that she accidentally "deposited the manuscript in the basinette, and placed the baby in the hand-bag" she had with her. She confesses to leaving the bag at the very railway station where Jack had been found: Victoria. When Jack produces this hand-bag, Miss Prism confirms that it is her own, and this allows everyone to figure out that Jack is actually Algernon's brother and Lady Bracknell's nephew, giving him enough family to marry his cousin, Gwendolyn, with Lady Bracknell's blessing.

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Miss Prism is a minor character who is significant because she has a secret about Jack that she doesn't realize until the end of the play. In fact, no one knows how vital this secret's revelation means until the end. Miss Prism is the carrier of information that provides a twist to the plot and resolution to many problems. Miss Prism is Cecily's governess and works for Jack. Miss Prism also used to work for Jack's parents before they died, which makes her very old, indeed, but nonetheless important. Her secret stayed with her for close to thirty years, too, but is revealed as Lady Bracknell asks her what she did with the baby (her nephew) she lost so long ago. As Miss Prism reveals her secret, Jack is able to unveil his past and heritage. This unveiling leads to him being able to earnest, or honest, and to learn that his real name is also Ernest.

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