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Free Study Guide-The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde-Summary
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1) Algernon: “I don’t play accurately-anyone can play accurately-but I play with wonderful expression.” Act I

One can take this as an example of Wilde’s support of the Aesthetic movement, which valued art for art’s sake. This philosophy did not require art to instruct or handle political issues. Unconcerned with the accuracy of his music, and in appreciation of its artistic value, Algernon can, here, be viewed s an aesthete.

2) Algernon: "Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?" Act I

Algernon says this after he and his servant, Lane, have a discussion about marriage during which Lane seems relaxed about the subject. Algernon questions what is the use of the lower classes if they are not setting a good example for the upper classes. He states that the lower classes have no sense of moral responsibility.

This quote is intended to be humorous. Algernon is being serious, but Wilde is commenting on the absurdity of the upper class and their lack of moral responsibility. It is ironic because in the 19 th century England, the upper class was supposed to be the respectable class, setting an example for everyone else.

3) Algernon: “My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.” Act I

This is another unintentionally humorous quote on the behalf of Algernon. Its tone mocks the stuffiness and hypocrisy of dating among the upper classes.

4) Miss Prism: “No married man is ever attractive, except to his wife.” Act II

This is an example of the Marriage theme.

5) Algernon: “What a fearful liar you are, Jack. I have not been called back to town” Act II

This is an example of an ironic statement. Algernon calls Jack a liar; yet, he has come to Jack’s county house under an assumed identity.

6) Cecily says to Algernon: “It is always painful to part from people whom one has known for a very brief space of time. The absence of old friends, one can endure with equanimity.” Act II

This is another example of the epigrams used throughout the entire play, which render it hilarious.

7) Cecily says to Algernon: “Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement.” Act II.

This is humorous, because to Victorians-as well as to ourselves-it is important to keep business engagements. Yet, this statement is not amusing to the characters in the play.

8) Gwendolen: “Something tells me that we are going to be great friends. I like you already more than I can say.” Act II

This is an example of Victorian Manners. Gwendolen says this to Cecily within moments of meeting her. This statement becomes even more humorous when examine in light of the disagreement they have only a short while later.

9) Lady Bracknell to Algernon, regarding his pending christening: “Lord Bracknell would be highly displeased if he learned that that was the way in which you wasted your time and money.” Act III

This is an example of Lady Bracknell’s characterization: she is primarily concerned with money. This is an excellent example of the wealthy’s appreciation of money over morality.

10) Jack: “I’ve finally realized for the first time in my life, the vital Importance of Being Earnest” Act III

This is an excellent closing line for the play because it encompasses all of the irony with which this plot is laden.

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Free Study Guide-The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde-Summary


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