The Importance of Being Earnest- Analysis, Summary, Characters & Themes

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The Importance of Being Earnest is a funny play about two guys, Jack and Algernon, who pretend to be someone they’re not to avoid boring responsibilities. They both use the name ‘Ernest’ when they’re not actually named that. Things get messy when they fall in love with Gwendolen and Cecily, and the ladies think they’re engaged to men named Ernest. Gwendolen’s mom, Lady Bracknell, doesn’t approve of Jack’s background, which creates a lot of funny situations. In the end, everything gets sorted out, and the play challenges the rules society follows.

TitleThe Importance of Being Earnest
AuthorOscar Wilde
Published DateFebruary 14, 1895
GenreComedy, Satire
PublisherL. Smithers
Setting (place)London (Act I) and Hertfordshire, a rural county not far from London (Acts II and III) 1890s
Setting (time)1890s
CharactersJack Worthing (Ernest), Algernon Moncrieff, Gwendolen Fairfax, Cecily Cardew, Lady Bracknell
ThemesSociety and Social Mores, Identity and Deception, Marriage and Love


The characters of the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” by are:

  1. Jack Worthing (Ernest) ➤ He’s a nice fellow who pretends to have a brother named Ernest and uses that name to go to the city and have fun. He’s in love with Gwendolen.
  2. Algernon Moncrieff ➤ He’s a playful guy who pretends to be Ernest too, to have a good time. He’s friends with Jack and likes Jack’s cousin, Cecily.
  3. Gwendolen Fairfax ➤ She’s Jack’s love interest. She’s sophisticated, confident, and insists on marrying someone named Ernest.
  4. Cecily Cardew ➤ She’s sweet and naive, living in the countryside. She falls for Algernon but thinks he’s also named Ernest.
  5. Lady Bracknell ➤ She’s Gwendolen’s mom and is very strict about who her daughter can marry. She has strong opinions about class and manners.


The themes of the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” by are:

  1. Being Honest ➤ The play is about telling the truth and being honest, even if it’s easier to pretend to be someone else.
  2. Love and Marriage ➤ It talks about how love and marriage can be silly sometimes. It shows that people might love someone just because of their name or what they represent, rather than who they really are.
  3. Making Fun of Society ➤ The play makes fun of how society works, especially how strict and serious people can be about unimportant things.
  4. Appearances and Reality ➤ It’s about how things might not always be what they seem. The characters often pretend to be something they’re not, which causes a lot of confusion.
  5. Having Fun ➤ It’s a funny play! It teaches us that it’s good to have fun and not take life too seriously all the time.


The play is around two young men, Jack “Ernest” Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, and the ridiculous miscommunications that derail each of their romantic relationships. When “Ernest” approaches Algernon to beg for permission to pop the question to Gwendolen Fairfax, Algernon questions why his friend’s cigarette box bears an inscription that reads “Uncle Jack.” Jack has been leading a double life, using his legal identity in the nation and Ernest in London. He is Cecily Cardew’s guardian there, a young heiress, and he has to keep up his good name as a sober, upright guy with her. 

Jack makes up the story that he has to travel to London often to see his rebellious brother Ernest. In London, he also uses an alias to shift any unfavorable rumors about himself onto his made-up brother. Algernon tells Jack that he’s done the same thing by making up the character of Bunbury, a buddy who is always ill and uses his illness as a justification for avoiding social duties.

Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen (Miss Fairfax) and Aunt Augusta (Lady Bracknell) walk into the room. Gwendolen accepts Jack’s proposal as Algernon diverts Lady Bracknell from the stage. Gwendolen tells him that she has always yearned to marry someone called Ernest. Jack decides to get himself rechristened Ernest when she responds negatively to his question about how she would feel if his name were Jack instead.

Algernon reappears with Lady Bracknell, who questions Jack about his past and rejects Jack and Gwendolen’s engagement. When she learns that he doesn’t know his parents & was found in a purse in the cloakroom at London’s Victoria Station, she is largely satisfied with his responses. With a fury, she walks off. Although Jack can provide Gwendolen with his rural address, Algernon also finds out.

On a bright July day, the scene shifts to Jack’s country estate garden, where Cecily is studying with Miss Prism, her governess. The local canon, Dr. Chasuble, comes and strikes up a conversation with Miss Prism. Since it is obvious that they are drawn to one another, Dr. Chasuble asks Miss Prism to go on a stroll with him in the evening. When Algernon shows up out of the blue and identifies himself as Ernest, Cecily is left alone. He entices Cecily by posing as Jack’s scheming younger brother.

Miss Prism & Dr. Chasuble exit the home, followed by Algernon and Cecily. Jack shows up shortly after in a black suit. Unaware that Algernon has arrived posing as Ernest, he is acting as though his brother Ernest has passed away and he is in grief. Later that day, Jack makes plans for Dr. Chasuble to christen him. Jack gets exposed for his falsehood about his brother’s death as Cecily and Algernon come out of the home. Jack approaches Algernon and tells him to go when they are by themselves. Rather, Cecily and Algernon plan to cause Algernon to miss his train, after which Algernon pops the question to her. She agrees after falling in love with both “Ernests” and their immoral actions. Now Algernon finds out that if his name were Ernest, Cecily would not love him, just like Gwendolen.

When Gwendolen shows up out of the blue, Cecily is left alone once more. Gwendolen is welcomed by Cecily, and the two get along well until they discover that they are both betrothed to a guy named “Ernest,” mistakenly believing that they are the same person. Soon, Jack and Algernon show up and are forced to acknowledge their deceit.

Jack and Algernon promise to each be renamed Ernest to appease their fiancées. Abruptly, Lady Bracknell shows up there and forbids Algernon from being married to a lady she only knows as Jack’s ward. When Jack informs her that she is extraordinarily wealthy, her reservations vanish. However, Jack won’t consent to the union unless he is also allowed to wed Gwendolen.

Lady Bracknell asks to see Miss Prism when Dr. Chasuble brings her up. She has an elderly servant named Miss Prism who lost her baby nephew twenty-eight years ago. When Jack retrieves the purse that contains the baby, it is established that he is the nephew in issue. As Jack is the sister of Lady Bracknell, he is Algernon’s elder brother. Jack discovers that his father’s name is Ernest after looking through the old Army rosters, which is the reason behind Jack’s intended father’s name. Lady Bracknell authorizes the marriage of Jack and Gwendolen, and Jack authorizes the union of Algernon and Cecily. Dr. Chasuble & Miss Prism, Jack and Gwendolen, and Algernon and Cecily are the three couples that embrace as the play comes to a close.


What is the main message of The Importance of Being Earnest?

“The Importance of Being Earnest” shows how silly society’s strict rules and pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to chaos.

What is the basic plot of The Importance of Being Earnest?

Two friends pretend to be someone else, causing confusion in love. Hilarious chaos ensues until their true identities and love prevail.”

What is The Importance of Being Earnest known for?

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is famous for its humor, mistaken identities, and how it makes fun of society’s rules about love and appearances.

Why do Algernon and Jack lie so much?

Algernon and Jack lie to avoid dull obligations and to win over the women they love.

Does Algernon actually love Cecily?

Yes, Algernon truly falls in love with Cecily in the play.

Why is Algernon always eating?

Algernon is always eating because he thinks it’s a bad habit to be talked about and is a means to avoid boring conversations.

What is the ending of The Importance of Being Earnest?

In the ending, both couples get married.

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