The Importance of Being Earnest

Breuer's and Craft's Readings of Wilde: Antinomy in The Importance of Being Earnest College

The frequent use of antinomy in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, has often been interpreted as a literary device that serves as a “jubilant celebration of male homosexual desire,” as analyzed by Christopher Craft.[1] Other analyses like Rolf Breuer’s contradict this, asserting that Wilde employs antinomy in the text to deconstruct and experiment with the fragility of human identity. Both these analyses are truthful in some capacity: desire – derived from sexuality – is a key factor that contributes to the momentum of the play and Breuer’s Oscar Wilde employs ‘antinomy’ in The Importance of Being Earnest to represent the duality of humanity.

Antinomy is prevalent in The Importance of Being Earnest, defined by Breuer as “contradictory statements both of which can be deduced according to accepted rules of inference from obviously true premises.”[2] Jack Worthing, a principal character, spends the better part of the play attempting to establish his identity. The founding antinomy in The Importance of Being Earnest is that John “Jack” Worthing is the modest countryman discovered by a nobleman at a train station as an infant; he is tasked with the supervision of his ward, Cecily Worthing. However, he is also...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1708 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10771 literature essays, 2703 sample college application essays, 648 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in