I was delighted when I spun The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde for The Classics Club’s most recent spin. I expected fun and frivolity and that’s what I got.
Straight up, I’m going to expose my ignorance by admitting that I was surprised to learn that this story was written as a play. I had expected it to be a short story.
I expect that most people are familiar with the story of Jack Worthing, an orphan who was adopted as a baby by a wealthy man after being found in a handbag at a train station. For those of you who aren’t, picture Jack as a young Colin Firth.
Jack is mad about a pretty young thing, Gwendolen, who feels as if she could only love a man named Ernest, so of course Jack calls himself Ernest to win her heart. When Gwendolen’s cousin Algernon wants to know why ‘Ernest’ also goes by the name of Jack, Jack admits that he is called Jack by his young ward, Cecily, in the country. Cecily, on the other hand, believes that Jack has a good-for-nothing brother called Ernest, who lives in London.
Gwendolen accepted Jack’s proposal, believing that his name was Ernest, but Gwendolen’s aunt, Lady Bracknell, refused to give her permission because Jack has no known relations.
Filled with curiosity about Jack/Ernest, Algernon went to Jack’s country estate and met Jack’s ward, Cecily, with whom he fell in love. She believed him to be her Uncle Jack’s brother Ernest and fell in love with him, much to Jack’s irritation. To further complicate things, Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell also turn up at Jack’s estate, where Jack and Algernon are both planning to be christened later that day as ‘Ernest.’
The story is untangled to everyone’s satisfaction by the end of the story, which finishes with three very happy couples. Read this for yourself to find out who the third happy couple are!
The Importance of Being Earnest was book nine for my Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics before my challenge end date of 26 August 2023.