The Importance of Being Earnest :: Week Three

Welcome to the The Importance of Being Earnest read-a-long! We’re reading this book through August. You can see the reading schedule and guidelines on the Starting Post Page.

Week Two: Read Act Three


I just can’t get over how clever Oscar Wilde was. Really funny and very clever. I would have liked to have known him (or at the very least, have been near him at some event). He may have made me a bit nervous with his intelligence and wit (hard to keep up), but oh how I would have tried!

Bleak House readers… notice how Algy claimed that Bunbury exploded (as in that’s how he died)? Ah, for the days when people could just explode.

Although I already knew what happened (from seeing the play), I do love how it was all tied in. Algy and Jack being brothers. Jack having the register of Army Lists and actually being named Ernest. If a worse writer had created this play, it all could have seemed too neatly wrapped up – but Wilde managed to make it fun and interesting rather than trite. Do you agree?

All of my favorite quotes from this week seem to be from Lady Bracknell (am just noticing this now):

“Yes, quite as I expected. There are distinct social possibilities in you profile… Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present.”

“To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.”

“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”

Who’s Reading Along:

** Please don’t forget to come to this blog each Friday and share your thoughts in the comments section of the weekly The Importance of Being Earnest discussion (see below for more information).**

JacquelineM (@jackiemania)
Ian Cann (@thebeercolonel)
Meg @ A Bookish Affair
Patty@a tale of three cities
NorCal Reader
Ashley J.
SpyrosChrysikopoulos (@chryssiko)
Adam Stone
Walkie Talkie Book Club

Friendly Reminders:

  • If you are participating and I don’t have you on this list, please let me know in the comments section. I did not include people who said ‘maybe’ so if you have changed your mind and are definitely reading along with us, let me know so I can add you. Also, if you are not going to be able to join us anymore please let me know and I will take you off the list. 
  • Comments from the previous week’s reading will be closing Thursday afternoon (before the next discussion takes place on Friday). If you would like to be part of the discussion, please remember to comment before then. 
  • Each week, on Friday, share your thoughts about the previous week’s reading. If you are stuck on what to comment about, you can respond to my post or others’ comments. Regardless, you MUST check in each week (two weeks without a response and you will be taken off of the list — see below for details on why). You may have only one “off week” (which may not be the last week of reading for obvious reasons) and still be kept on the list, but you must let me know in the comment section by saying something like, “I’m catching up,” or “I’m still reading.” ***for all week’s discussions please refrain from posting ahead, even if you have read ahead, as to not spoil the book for others***
  • If you are a blogger you may post a link to your blog if you are posting about each of the each week’s reading. If I, or other readers, have extra time we will gladly try to visit your blog; however, you must make sure to share your thoughts here on this blogand be part of the main conversation or your comment will not be counted.
  • If you go for two weeks without commenting in my weekly update comments section, I will assume you are no longer participating and will take you off of the list (*NEW GUIDELINE*, in order to get back onthe list, you need to a.) Have missed no more than two weeks of discussion, b.) Let me know you would like to be on the list again, and c.) consistently be part of the discussion for the next two weeks after requesting to be put back on the list.). This is in no way to be discouraging, but helps to keep the read-a-long organized (and helps me remember who’s completed what read-a-long…there (ahem) might be something fun for different levels of participants at the end of the year! Thanks!

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20 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Earnest :: Week Three

  1. Hi I’m not part of the read along so you can you please put me off this list .
    But I do enjoy reading your blog a lot :)
    Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

  2. In Act 3, the two girls still flutter about because they can’t marry a man whose name isn’t Ernest. When they learn the men are planning to change names, they are impressed and claim the process a “fearful ordeal.” The story ends happily, and Jack learns who he really is. And he really is Ernest…or earnest and Algy’s brother. This play is funny and clever, but the character who steals the show is Lady Bracknell. I thoroughly enjoyed her quips.

    Life according to Lady B:

    About acceptability: (After she determines Cecily unacceptable for her nephew, she learns that Cecily has money.): A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her. Few girls of the present day have any really solid qualities, and of the qualities that last, and improve with time. We live, I regret to say, in and age of surfaces.

    About the length of an engagement: To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.

    About age: Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating…

    About aging: London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

    About adult baptism: The idea is grotesque and irreligious!…I will not hear of such excesses.

    This was an easy and enjoyable read. Once again, we were confronted by a very shallow upper class. You have to wonder how these people tolerated one another during the Victorian Era. I assume the humor in a play such as this was one of the ways since they could laugh at themselves.

    I’m so glad I joined in on the read-a-long. Thanks for hosting, Wallace. I’m looking forward to more.

    • “A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her.” This was my favorite part as it revealed just how shallow society can be, even now in 2012.
      I have enjoyed this play more than I thought I would, thanks for hosting Wallace. I am looking forward to September’s read-a-long:)

      • I completely agree with you on the shallowness, and how it reaches this time frame in 2012 as well. I was talking about shallowness last week with another reader or two. I had said that I actually enjoy the fact that they are shallow in the way that it allows me to see that it’s not something we made up. Superficiality has been around since long before I was born, and while it might not be pleasant, it’s comforting to know!

    • Oh yes, took reading in a post Downton era, to notice that line about Cecily’s fortune, poking fun at all the broke, titled men hunting the rich heiresses.

  3. Yep, Wilde does manage to deftly wrap everything up without it seeming too trite – mainly because nearly every line is a humdinger. Lady Bracknell does have some top lines, her reaction to Bunbury being ‘exploded’ is great.

    My favourtie one is from Gwendolen which gives the whole game about the shallowness of victorian society away: “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerityis the vital thing”.

    Regarding good old Oscar himself, I’m not sure on him, I think he’d be very funny to be around for a while, but after a bit, I think the none-stop barrage of one liners might drag a bit – but it’d be fantastic while it lasted.

    • I agree with you on Wilde. I enjoyed reading this book, but I’m not sure if I really liked the book itself. I haven’t read anything else by Wilde, so I can’t judge his other books yet, but I agree that it could get tough to read. However, he could just be the literary genius that people say he is and I might love his other books!

  4. One thing that I find funny in this is how they go on about how horrible the process of a baptism- going on how treacherous or gluttonous almost.

    Besides ones already mentioned, this was a great line: “Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”

    • Great line to highlight. I’m left with the question, “So IS it important to be Earnest?” What is Wilde trying to get at here?

      I would argue that Wilde wants Art/artifice to trump Nature/the natural. Notice that a BOOK replaces the baby in the handbag. All of these false names and identities speak to SELF creation, made, not born. I think the essence of the play (besides the social satire) is about creation and imagination being taken from the natural (procreation) to emanating from the individual.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the play. It was so amusing, but I think it has some really important things to say under the surface about art. Would there be an Andy Warhol if not for Wilde? “I am a deeply superficial person.” (that was said by Warhol!)

      • A big amen to everything you have said! I love the connection from Wilde to Warhol, too. Although Wilde is satirizing society, he seems to be doing so in a way that accepts it rather than condemns it.

  5. I apologize for not responding on time this week, but I’m here bright and early Saturday morning to post!

    I did enjoy the book, and Wallace, I did not dislike how neatly it wrapped up. I do agree that other authors who might have the same wrap-up would have seemed corny, but Wilde was humorous, outlandish, and corny with his humor the whole time, so it worked!

    I enjoyed the witty humor and the quick read, but I’m not sure how much I actually loved the book.

    I did love Lady Bracknell’s marriage comment that Wallace wrote about, involving how long engagements allow people to find out about the true character of a person.

    Maybe the quote that I feel sums up the book’s feel is the one by Lady Bracknell that says “He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire?” The superficiality, the flip-flipping back and forth between being in love with a man based on his name or not, the way that Lady Bracknell only wants a wealthy man for Gwendolen and a rich woman for Algernon, and so on.

  6. Pingback: Review: The Importance of Being Earnest « jackiemania

  7. What a short read-a-long this time around! I really enjoyed my first foray into any Wilde, and wasn’t put off by how neatly everything was resolved. I should have known seeing as my copy is only 60 pages long, but I really was surprised with how everything moved along. Pleasantly surprised, of course. All of the characters appealed to me, but I have a bit of a soft spot for Algy. What a sense of wit and humor! I’d love to get his opinion on anything, as I’m sure I’d love it.
    Thanks for hosting Wallace! Excited about the next read-a-long

  8. Well, that certainly was a twist here in Act 3! I have to agree with many that Lady Bracknell seemed to steal the show this time. Wilde sure has a keen sense of humor and I’m looking forward to reading more from him. This was fun – I’m looking forward to the next read-a-long!

  9. Well, this third part really made up for the minute lapse in excitement in the second part. Here, we get to see Wilde’s pen at its best. The characters really bring out the “true” ideals of society and manage to make everything seem plausible. I can’t help but think that when we do base our decisions on shallow or momentary feelings, this is the society we will get and maintain. My favourite character, believe it or not, is Lady Bracknell. Ever since the beginning, she is displaying characteristics or living in a parallel reality. Yet, she is the one that has managed to survive and now holds the reigns in the decision-making business. She knows what is required and sees to this without considering its human aspect…
    Wallace, thank you for picking up this little gem in literature – looking forward to our next read-a-long!

  10. Hi Wallace,
    Here you put me on your Read Along List and I fail :( I did read it. I did enjoy it. What a clever clever writer he is. I will most definitely watch the movie of the same name – and soon! In fact, I’m going to put it on my netflix list right now!

    As always, enjoy your posts!

  11. This was such a fun little book to read! I loved the witty remarks by many of the characters, but Lady Bracknell really did steal the show! Her many contradictions were fabulous! I won’t post them because a few others already have, but they really were hilarious and revealing of the ideals of Victorian society. She actually reminded me of a Dickens character in the way she can be so nonsensical and absorbed with society (Mrs. Jellyby, I’m looking at you and your obsession with helping third-world children but neglecting your own!)

    I was a bit surprised with how quickly the ending was tied up, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. For such a short book that is actually meant to be a play, it is fitting that the big reveal happens quickly and smoothly.

    Thanks for hosting this read-along, Wallace! I’m looking forward to the next one :)

  12. Pingback: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – Book 13 and My First Adventures with a Read-A-Long « Love at First Book

  13. Pingback: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – Book 13 and My First Adventures with a Read-A-Long | RScaglione

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