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SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS
The Importance of Being Earnest employs the use of symbolism in many it the character’s names:
The word chasuble is a vestment worn during services. This is, of course, appropriate given the nature of Chasuble’s profession. It could be interpreted that, because Wilde chose to name him after the “garment,” the covering, the outer vestment-that there is more underneath. Chasuble’s name is also a pun because when said aloud can sound like chase-able. Regarding Miss Prism, he is in fact chase-able, which he had previously claimed he was not. There is more to him than meets the eye.
Miss Prism is a prim woman, and much like the cut glass of a prism. Furthermore, when we learn her true identity at the end of the play-we see that she has distorted whom she really is. She is responsible for a very grave deed -loosing a baby. That is not at all the light she had previously cast.
Ernest, regarding both Jack and Algernon, is not earnest at all. An earnest man is sincere and serious. However, when the Ernest identity is assumed, it is ironically when the man can escape and be himself.