Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

In this paper I argue that in The Importance of Being Earnest, social identity replaces individuality. Algy, Miss Prism, and Cecily each defy the social norms of birth, death, or marriage, which places them outside of society’s boundaries but gives them individuality. Over the course of the play, their mis-performances of society’s scripts are erased. This eradicates the differences of the characters and effaces their individuality, but is also the way in which the characters bargain for a social identity. To demonstrate this, I discuss Algy’s creation of Mr. Bunbury, Miss Prism’s loss of infant Jack, and Cecily’s engagement to Algy.

Origin of Submission

as part of a class

Faculty Involvement

Dr. Jamie Horrocks

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Mr. Bunbury, the Abandoned Manuscript, and a “true lover’s knot:” The Price of a Social Identity in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest

In this paper I argue that in The Importance of Being Earnest, social identity replaces individuality. Algy, Miss Prism, and Cecily each defy the social norms of birth, death, or marriage, which places them outside of society’s boundaries but gives them individuality. Over the course of the play, their mis-performances of society’s scripts are erased. This eradicates the differences of the characters and effaces their individuality, but is also the way in which the characters bargain for a social identity. To demonstrate this, I discuss Algy’s creation of Mr. Bunbury, Miss Prism’s loss of infant Jack, and Cecily’s engagement to Algy.