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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What is a bunburyist? How are Algernon and Jack bunburyists in The Importance of Being Earnest?

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"Bunburying" is practiced in The Importance of Being Earnest by both Jack (although initially unbeknownst to him) and Algernon, who actually coins the word in the play and later reveals that Jack exemplifies the term. The men go "bunburying" when they wish to avoid responsibilities but don't want to appear lazy or irresponsible. Essentially, being a bunburyist is using a fictitious but good-sounding excuse to avoid everyday or potentially dull requirements. Using such excuses makes Jack and Algernon seem heroic, because they are always seemingly rushing off to the rescue of some forlorn person in great need of help. For Jack, this is his "reckless brother Ernest," while for Algernon, it is his "invalid friend Bunbury." Both of these imaginary people are effective throughout the majority of the story for these two friends and help to further emphasize the motif of deceit in the play.

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