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 are the similarities between "The Importance of Being Earnest" and Wilde's life?

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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, 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.

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How does Oscar Wilde's life compare to one of the characters in The Importance of being Earnest?

Oscar Wilde's life holds some parallels with Algernon Moncrieff's life in particular, because they both have secrets that they choose to hide using creative lies. Algernon creates an imaginary invalid friend named Bunbury, whom he always uses as an excuse to do whatever he wants without his mother being aware of it. This fiction allows Algernon to live the life he desires while maintaining a good reputation and his high social status.

Similarly, at least early on in his adult life, Oscar Wilde maintained a high public reputation despite being an active gay man, which was illegal in England at that time. As his playwriting career advanced and he gained more of a literary reputation, Wilde became more careless about concealing his personal life. In the end, Wilde was exposed as gay and sent to prison for years, which ultimately killed him. The Importance of Being Earnest foreshadows this event—though perhaps unknowingly on Wilde's part—by having the characters' lies exposed at the end. However, since Earnest is a comedy, the exposed lies do not end up preventing a happy ending.

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