True lies


The Importance of Being Earnest, at the very beginning, seems to follow the usual morality play canvas: good vs evil. Algernon Moncrieff, one on the two main male protagonists, is the bad guy: a penniless aristocrat devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and particularly fond of muffins. This is the Victorian society and appearances have to be saved, therefore, when he wants to have a good time he pretends to go and visit an invalid friend called Bunbury, who lives in the country, whose bad health seems to require Algernon’s loving care. He is indeed a liar. His friend Earnest should evidently play the role of the good guy, in fact his name evokes seriousness, trust, assurance. Wilde reinforces this effect giving him the surname of Worthing. emphasizing that the man is also a “worth” “thing”. Actually, Earnest seems to have a good head on his shoulder,in fact everybody regards him a trustworthy, upright man. But also respectable men need to have a night out sometime, therefore he has invented a wicked younger brother, who needs to be looked after, who lives in town and whose name is… Earnest. We may believe that our good guy lacks imagination since he has given his name to his fictitious brother, but here is the trick, his real name is actually Jack at home and becomes Earnest every time he is in town. A double liar in fact. This is actually Wilde’s canvas: nothing is what it seems. He considers the old fixed categories of drama surpassed, and inadequate to mirror the complexity of the modern contemporary society. He continuously shuffles his cards throughout the play, thus depriving his audience of every certainty and when at the end every character seems to have been unmasked and every single lie crushed there is the coup de théâtre: Algernon is Jack’s younger brother and Jack’s name is actually Earnest. “it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth” he will say. Among the many adaptations of the Importance of being Earnest I particularly enjoyed that of Oliver Parker with Colin Firth playing Jack/Earnest and Rupert Everett in the role of Algernon, however, some of the  adjustments in the script were, in my opinion, quite unnecessary. Algy in the movie is Jack/Earnest’s elder brother and Jack’s real name is actually Jack rather than Earnest. These choices add nothing to the story but rather they make it trivial, thus missing the essence of the play. Anyway, the movie is worth watching.


7 thoughts on “True lies

  1. As far as I’m concerned, I believe that Wilde, means the character of Ernest, anticipates the idea of the life as a labyrinth and the solution, that is self-exile. He is eager to fly with his wax wings, to change mask and form, from an ordinary life, to a hedonistic life, and than come back. Would it be correct, to juxtapose the character of Ernest, to who in my opinion are two of the most representative “flyers” in ‘900 novels, Steven Dedalus and Mattia Pascal, and see him like their precursor? As I see it, Ernest’s solution to escape his labyrinth is more moderate but not as effective as the solution suggested by Pirandello and Joyce: fly away in order “to recreate life out of life”, leaving the past behind your back, not coming back to it like Ernest does..

    • Uhmm,I don’t think so. He doesn’t want to go on self- exile, he doesn’t reject his society, he is very happy as he is, only he wishes to do what he wants and being respectable at the same time; just as the Victorian society requires: public virtues (earnest) and hidden vices.:)

      • Ok I’ve drawn my attention only on the hedonistic part of his life, not on the life as Jack.. Thanks for the explanation

  2. Hi Mrs. Tink.
    This is so much like the Brit´s, specially during that period of time the Vicotorian time. All these aristocrats and their secrets. I couldn´t help myself to smile at the quote ” It´s a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth” .

    Very good Stefy, as always.

    • Hi Charly, this is our Sunday date 😉 If you are not acquainted with Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, I warmly suggest you to read it. There is so much to learn from Wilde’s style, even the movie with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett is fab.
      Thank you so much for your steady support.

      • Stop thanking me Stefy, I love to have our date on Sunday, always lerning goog stuff. Before I was to cool to go to school, so that wasn´t a great choice, but i can go to school now, and how you analise the things you write about, what can I say………love it. Reminds me when I not cool and went to school.
        Thank you Mrs Tink, love ya!

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