How does “The Importance of Being Earnest” challenge Victorian values of identity?

InĀ The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde challenges the Victorian ideals of “decency” and personal identity by portraying the character of Jack/Ernest as one constantly living a double life. Though introducing himself as Ernest to Gwendolen (which, it is later revealed, is his actual name), his “real” name is Jack, and much of the drama of the play revolves around him attempting to be re-christened to change names (hence, also referencing the title of the play, “The Importance of beingĀ Ernest“). The duality of his character, with him constantly living a double life as Jack to some people, and Ernest to others, challenges the Victorian values of transparency and decency in identity by showing a deeply deceitful and untruthful character. “The cleverness of the multiplicity of the character of John/Jack/Ernest Worthing is not simply a farcical conceit […]” (The Importance of Being Out, pg. 15), indeed, it is simultaneously a source of comedy, a plot device, and a critique of society’s expectation of transparency and truthfulness.

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