Puns, double entendre, wit, humor

“to lose two parents is carelessness”

Ridicules Jack being found in a handbag

try to acquire a parent

Victorian Station cloakroom

criticizes social conventions

Cecily tells Gwendolen Earnest is not the ward,

“If it were my business, I wouldn’t talk about it”

Algernon proposes to Cecily, who gets out a diary and letters that she has already written, explaining that she had already imagined their engagement

When she discovers the extent of Cecily’s fortune, she gives her consent to her engagement to Algernon; however, Jack’s parentage is still a stumbling block to her blessings. Jack tells Lady Bracknell that he will not agree to Cecily’s engagement until she is of age (35) unless he can marry Gwendolen. Dr. Chasuble arrives and announces that all is ready for the christenings. Jack explains that the christenings will no longer be necessary. Noting that Jack’s present concerns are secular, the minister states that he will return to the church where Miss Prism is waiting to see him. Shocked at hearing the name “Prism,” Lady Bracknell immediately calls for Prism and reveals her as the governess who lost Lady Bracknell’s nephew 28 years earlier on a walk with the baby carriage. She demands to know where the baby is. Miss Prism explains that in a moment of distraction she placed the baby in her handbag and left him in Victoria Station, confusing him with her three-volume novel, which was placed in the baby carriage. After Jack asks for details, he quickly runs to his room and retrieves the handbag. Miss Prism identifies it, and Lady Bracknell reveals that Jack is Algernon’s older brother

Ernest John Moncrief

Apologizes for speaking nothing but the truth all his life Gwendolen forgives him for he will change

Wilde saw marriages filled with hypocrisy and often used to achieve status.

Style and manners also come under attack; style over substance

Victorian culture is also a target. Algernon’s quip, “More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read,“

Act i - part 2

”Worthing” for the destination of his train ticket marry into a cloakroom, and form an alliance with a parcel Jack decides to kill off his “brother” Ernest with a severe chill in Paris because Cecily Cardew, his ward, is far too interested in the wicked Ernest, and as her guardian, Jack feels it his duty to protect her from inappropriate marriage suitors.

aristocratic Victorian and Algernon’s aunt. Arrogant, opinionated, and conservative, Lady Bracknell is the epitome of the Victorian upper-class

marriage is a duty upper class is determined to keep attitudes and power in the hands of the few; the radical idea that people should be taught to actually think and question is scary to those in power.

Gwendolen trivializes serious ideas and imagines people and events that have never existed Wilde is asking if marrying for a person’s name is any more intelligent, or absurd, than marrying based on wealth and parents upper-class conversation is trivial and meaningless

emptiness of Victorian values

Society is described in multiple contexts as clever people talking nonsense and triviality

But Lady Bracknell treats the very human concerns of death and illness with irreverence and flippancy

”All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

Act II part 1

utilizes Miss Prism as his mouthpiece, a morally upright woman who has, nevertheless, written a melodramatic, romantic novel

hypocrisy sexual repression of his society appearance is everything

Act III Resolution Characters Jack Worthing - he represents the ideal of leading a responsible life in the country

Algy - a symbol, he is wittiness and aestheticism personified Self-absorbed Witty

Lady Augusta Bracknell - powerful, arrogant, ruthless to the extreme, conservative, and proper authority and power firmly believes the middle and lower classes should never be taught to think or question

Themes So, while a person could lead a secret life, carry on affairs within marriage or have children outside of wedlock, society would look the other way as long as the appearance of propriety was maintained

The Absence of Compassion

Secret Lives

Perpetuating the Upper Class Class Conflict

verbal irony