Themes in The Importance of Being Earnest
The Collision of Fact and Fiction: One of the major themes this play explores is the relationship between fact and fiction—what Wilde called the relationship between life and art. Jack and Algernon invent fictional personas for themselves (“Ernest” and “Bunbury”) so they can avoid familial obligations and have fun in the city.
Marriage, Society, and Social Class: Like most Victorian fiction, the plot revolves around marriage: Jack wants to marry Gwendolyn, Algernon wants to marry Cecily, and each couple’s path to betrothal is fraught with trivial mishaps. One of these mishaps centers on society and class; Lady Bracknell, for example, doesn’t think Jack is aristocratic enough for Gwendolyn because, though he’s well-off, he doesn’t have any family.
Themes Examples in The Importance of Being Earnest:
"More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read..." See in text (Act I)
"Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with..." See in text (Act I)
"The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man..." See in text (Act II)
"after a long struggle with myself I accepted you under this dear old tree here..." See in text (Act II)
"the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind..." See in text (Act III)