The Importance of Being Earnest

Has jack really learned the importance of being earnest ?


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Wilde uses irony and epigrams to drive the meaning of being Earnest. Wilde is working on two basic meanings throughout his play. One is to play on irony and the other is to question exactly what truth is. The play truly pivots around the word "earnest." Both women want to marry someone named "Earnest," as the name inspires "absolute confidence"; in other words, the name implies that its bearer truly is earnest, honest, and responsible. However, Jack and Algernon have lied about their names, so they are not really "earnest." But it also turns out that (at least in Jack's case) he was inadvertently telling the truth. The rapid flip-flopping of truths and lies, of earnestness and duplicity, shows how truly muddled the Victorian values of honesty and responsibility were.