BEING EARNEST IN NAME AND ACTIONS
The Importance of Being Earnest is a play written by Oscar Wilde. First performed in London on the year 1895 ,the play is a ridiculous comedy in which the protagonists maintain a fake persona to escape the tiresome social obligations. The play set within the late Victorian London centers it’s themes on important social institutions such as marriage,and other Victorian ways satire. There are contradicting reviews with some praising the play while others critic the lack of social messages. The play is divided into three acts which use metaphors to refer to different scenes in the play.
Food in the book is used as a metaphor. The literary analysis of food and eating in the play is frequently used to refer to appetites and emotions that would seem impolite to air publicly.As seen in Act 1 where Algernon orders cucumber sandwiches and bread and butter for his guests. He goes ahead to eat the sandwiches before his guests arrive. Jack joins in to eat the bread and butter greedily that Algernon accusing him for behaving “as if you were married to her already.” In reference to the situation above eating is used to refer to gratification of the sexual appetite this is further reinforced by Algernon comment about marriage. The fact that the guest,Lady Bracknell, finds that there are no sandwiches to eat, Algernon creates a situation where they have to go out to order food. This excludes her from the world of love and lust as seen with young people.In Act 2 food is also used metaphorically. Gwendolen and Cecil get involved in a catfight. Gwendolen declines sugar and cakes pointing out that they are no longer fashionable but Cecil deliberately offers both to her. This action shows anger and aggression that ladies in the upper-class could not admit feeling.Algernon and Jack’s tricks are exposed to Gwendolen and Cecil and hence they walk into the house as both men start eating the muffins gluttonously. In literary analysis this refers to expression of thwarted sexual appetite by Algernon in attempt to console himself.
The name Ernest is also used metaphorically.As the word “earnest” the name is used symbolically which in the Victorian English to relate to conventional morality and respectable. Gwendolen and Cecil both want to marry someone with the name Ernest because it represents aspired confidence.Though Cecil is fascinated by Jack’s fictional brother Ernest because of his wicked ways.But in reality none of the men are called Ernest .In the Victorian society Ernest used to show respectability but the play puts forward the idea that anyone with such an image is being deceptive.
The handbag in which that Miss Prism places baby Jack and leaves him by mistake in the cloakroom in at railway station symbolizes of uncertain birth suggesting of sexual illegitimacy that in those times could disqualify a person from the respectable society. This is summed up by Lady Bracknell exclamation when she hears of Jack’s “hand-bag” origin.Claiming that her daughter cannot marry into the cloak-room and would only allow her find a husband from a good family with identifiable parents.