Illustration of Jack Worthing in a top hat and formal attire, and a concerned expression on his face

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, how are marriages and relationships formed?

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In The Importance of Being Earnest, most relationships are formed either from trickery or from arrangement. The two main characters, Jack and Algernon, both come to their true love through the name "Ernest," which belongs to neither of them. Jack has pretended to be named Ernest for Gwendolen, who is almost more attracted to the name than to him, while Algernon pretends to be Jack's wayward brother Ernest and so attracts the attention of his niece Cecily. In both cases, the deliberate deception of the name "Ernest" is the catalyst for romance.

Arrangement is shown through the interference of Gwendolen's mother, Lady Bracknell. When Jack proposes, Lady Bracknell subjects him to a lengthly interrogation and ultimately refuses him for his background; he turns this around on Algernon later when he refuses to allow Cecily and Algernon to marry. In both cases, the older guardian figure uses his or her authority to prevent romance, although both are ultimately futile.

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