Character Analysis: The Importance Of Being Earnest
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Portrayal of a character in a play or a film is very important to the characters identity. The way a character acts throughout either work is the way an audience will recognize them. In The Importance of Being Earnest the author, Oscar Wilde uses the character Jack as the male lead as well as the character in which the work affects the most. Jack is an upper class man who lives a very privileged life; one can see that Jack isn't very happy with his own life with his creation of Earnest. Earnest is the identity he keeps in the city, and the fictional being Jack lets his household family in the country believe is his brother. The word earnest is a synonym of sincere and in order to be sincere one must be honest. This shows the irony in the publication through even the title. It can be believed that even the title is ironic because Jack is sincere in different ways and creates his own idea of the truth.
The conversation changes completely however when Algernon tells Jack he wouldn't allow the marriage until the confusion about a cigarette case left by "Earnest" the last time he dined at Algernon's flat. One would assume that the charade would be over once the cigarette case was brought up, but this only makes Jack admit his being Jack in the country and Earnest in town to Algernon and goes no further than between them. The fact is that Jack shows to be only honest about what is really going on when he is caught in his own web it is looked at this way by Joel Fineman where he states, "Ernest will himself be earnest only when he isn't, just as he will not be earnest only when he is. This paradoxical alternation and oscillation of the subject, a phenomenon to which the play gives the general label Bunburyism, but which Lacan would call auto-difference, is resolved at the end of the play when Ernest consults the book of the name of the fathers and discovers that his name "naturally is Ernest," and that therefore to his surprise, "all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth." " (Fineman, 82) One could find it humorous that what Jack does throughout the whole publication actually gets a labeled name , "bunburyism" or auto-difference because of the fact that he is only honest when he is lying, and is only lying when he is telling the truth. This is the way the character of Jack/Earnest Worthing is portrayed throughout the entire publication because he is constantly trying to make up his truth as he goes along. One could argue that Wilde wrote a play that is filled with re-writes because the character of Jack writes his story as he goes. As interesting as this may be, it still proves that until the end of the story Jack is not honest at all until he is caught in any case and in reality that would make him a very untrustworthy person. The play basically gives him this personality, which allows Jack to be a very interesting character and also allows him to be a likable protagonist.
The film The Importance of Being Earnest actually shows Jack and Algernon meeting up in a public place instead of Jack showing up at his house, and completely eliminates the first scene of the play containing the dialogue between Algernon and Lane. The film actually shows Jack getting caught and admitting more of his lies in what seems like a more timely fashion. Although he is still shown in the same light as he is in the play, he makes a greater change in the film than in the play. One could argue that the film shows more of the mental game that is really played because it also shows facial expressions. You see this more in the proposal of Earnest to Gwendolen, her expressions heighten her reaction as well as the expressions of Lady Bracknell. John Harrington Smith points this out in his publication under the University of California Press; "If we take seriously the proposition that all a loving mother wants for her daughter is to be happily married, though in a cottage, there is Lady Bracknell's careful assessment of Jack's financial circumstances to enlighten us. But this is a demonstration in action: mostly the purpose of the play is served by wit". (Smith,77) Another thing done in the film that portrays Wilde's vision of Jack's attitude that can change in an instant is when Jack and Algernon find out they are really brothers which tops off their attitude towards each other. In the play as well as the film, their relationship is shown well. However it would have to be argued that their relationship is portrayed better in the film because it seems like something that is better seen rather than read.
Between the film and the play, one gets a pretty good idea of the irony used in the character of jack as a whole within his interactions with other characters. A prime example of this is when he and Gwendolen meet in the beginning of the film/play their conversational expressions makes it better to see the proposal rather than read it because it can be seen as rather funny. One can also argue that the film is better in the interactions when Jack pretends his "brother" Earnest is dead and Algernon shows up pretending to be Earnest.
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