Major Topics and thematic aspects of The Importance of Being Ernest: A play by Oscar Wilde

Theme of Double Identity in Importance of Being Ernest

In Victorian Age, there were fairly a large number of people leading a double life intended either for running two different families or keeping a mistress besides one's wife. Some people also led such life for the sake of homosexuality and other immoral deeds. Jack and Algernon, both, are leading lives of dual identity. Jack tells Algernon that his "name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country". He is so because he believes "when one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people". Therefore, to amuse himself he has always "pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest" in town. While on the other hand, Algernon has "invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury" so that he "may be able to go down into the country whenever" he chooses.

Theme of Hypocrisy in Importance of Being Ernest

Hypocrisy has always been repugnant in human society while no age was ever free of it and Victorian age was no exception. The playwright has portrayed such characters which highlight the hypocritical behavior of the society they live in. For example we may Jack says that "when one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects. It's one's duty to do so." But we cannot agree to the other meaning that one may behave immorally when one is not in a position of responsibility. Jack has adopted dual identity to profess one thing and continue doing another while Algernon has created a "Bunbury" for his hypocritical deeds. Even Lane, a maid, admits "marriage is a very pleasant state" but she married under "misunderstanding". All such deeds of hypocrisy are really appalling. In the words of Algernon: "the truth is rarely pure and never simple".

Theme of Marriage in Importance of Being Ernest

The playwright has presented the social debate on marriage from different angles. Different characters give vent to the prevalent ideas and ideals of marriage and its relevance to one's status and characters. Lady Bracknell does not approve of love marriages. She believes "an engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could hardly be allowed to arrange for herself". Algernon believes marriage is a non-serious thing, a stupidity. He says: "It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal". So he stops Jack from marriage. However, Jack and Gwendolen are serious about marriage though Jack for beauty and the latter for the name "Ernest".