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“People like to say that the conflict is between good and evil. The real conflict is between truth and lies.” Mexican author Don Miguel Ruiz’s words of knowledge are widely expressed throughout Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest as the characters experience the consequences in which come with telling a lie. For instance, Jack Worthing uses his fictional brother, Earnest, in order to pursue a social life which causes complications throughout the rest of the play. Similarly, Algeron Moncrieff creates an imaginary character known as Bunbury which eventually turns into another issue he has to overcome. In order to keep his double life a secret, Jack Worthing withholds the truth from Algeron when he insists on not knowing a girl named Cecily.
Jack Worthing leads a double life with the help of the nonexistent character Earnest. First off, Jack digs himself a hole when he creates Earnest, a fictional character in which he uses as an alibi to run his personal errands. In reality, Jack “has no brother and never had a brother”. Jack benefits off of his lies as he’s able to have more spare time on his hands, however, this involves him in an incredibly messy situation. Moreover, unknowingly traps himself into a chaotic situation from the temptation of freedom from his country estate. Jack uses Earnest to flee his country estate for a few days at a time, he no longer has to choose between “his health or his happiness”. Although it causes trouble, Jack creates Earnest as a way to have both a social life and still own his country estate. In addition to this, Jack causes conflicts for himself and others around him when he lies about his younger brother Earnest. Jack leaves town when Earnest “gets into the most dreadful scrapes”. When Jack excuses himself from business by visiting his younger brother Earnest, he not only lies but involves himself in a dispute.
Algeron Moncrieff creates an imaginary character known as Bunbury. Like Jack, Algeron invents Bunbury in order to give him a repreive from his daily life. Algeron wants “to be able to go down into the county whenever he chooses” without having a valid reason. Although this lie allows Algeron to get away from his social obligations, it also produces difficulty in his life. In addition, Algeron creates Bunbury in order to have a ready excuse to leave whenever he pleases. Algeron portrays Bunbury as “an invaluable permanent invalid” so he can conveniently lie about being called over to Bunbury’s deathbed. Algeron uses Bunbury to excuse himself from familiar responsibilities as well as tasks regarding business which eventually leads him into trouble. Furthermore, Bunbury allows Algeron to avoid unpleasant situations. With the help of Bunbury, Algeron is able to “dine with Jack at Willi’s” along with many other events Algeron would’ve missed if not for Bunbury. Algeron replaces undesirables situations with more pleasant ones by being decietful but ends up with more trouble than need be.
Jack Worthing comes up with a false story to tell which regards his double life. Jack retains the truth as Algeron asks him a question about whether he knows someone named Cecily. Algeron finds a cigarette case which Jack claims to be his but “the cigarette case is a present from someone of the name Cecily” who Jack insists on now knowing. Jack lies once again in order to protect the indentity he creates for himself from the beginning which includes him in an unecessary conflict. Jack conceals the truth in order to keep his identity a secret. Jack finally admits to knowing someone named Cecily who he claims “to be his Aunt”. Jack lies once more and continues to include himself in difficult situations. Jack Worthing denies the truth to avoid exposing his double life. Cecily addresses Algeron as “Uncle Jack” on the inscription of the cigarette case”. Jack attempts to mask his identity by telling a handful of lies which unknowingly backfire and gets him in trouble.
American author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, once said “Yeah, it never fails to amaze me how a single lie can undo an entire lifetime of good.” While the characters in The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde benefit off of their lies in the short term, they experience the difficulties in the long term.
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