The Importance of Being Earnest Book summary

Oscar Wilde




"The Importance of Being Earnest" received a mixed reception upon its premiere in 1895. Some critics and audiences appreciated its wit and humor, while others found Oscar Wilde's satire of Victorian society too sharp and potentially offensive. However, despite this mixed initial reception, the play has endured and remains highly relevant. Its examination of identity, deception, social class, and the importance of authenticity transcends its Victorian origins. These themes are universally relatable, making the play accessible and meaningful to contemporary audiences.

Wilde's sharp wit and clever wordplay have an enduring appeal. His humor is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking, making the play enjoyable for those who appreciate clever and humorous dialogue. The play offers a satirical critique of societal norms and hypocrisy that remains relevant today.


Plot Summary


The story revolves around two young gentlemen, Jack Worthington and Algernon Moncrieff, who each lead a double life to escape the confines of Victorian social norms. Jack, who goes by the name "Ernest" in the city, escapes to the countryside, where he is known as Jack. Algernon, on the other hand, pretends to have an invalid friend named "Bunbury" whenever he requires a reason to avoid his social obligations.

Trouble ensues when both men fall in love and wish to propose marriage. Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, while Algernon has fallen for Jack's ward, Cecily Cardew. Complications arise as Gwendolen insists on marrying a man named "Ernest" due to her admiration for the name, and Cecily believes she is engaged to a man named "Ernest" as well, for the same reason.

The situation spirals further into confusion when Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's mother, discovers Jack's true identity and social background, leading to a series of comical revelations and misunderstandings. Amidst the chaos, the characters engage in witty wordplay and humorous banter, revealing the absurdity of societal conventions and the importance placed on names and appearances.

Ultimately, the play culminates in a series of surprises and revelations, challenging the characters to confront their deceptions and leading to a resolution where love triumphs over social pretense.

  • Author(s)

    Oscar Wilde
  • Publication date


  • Language


  • Classification


  • Pages



Absurdist, Humor


St. James Theatre

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