The Importance of Being Earnest

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Bunbury  Symbol Icon
Bunbury is a fictional invalid that Algernon makes up so that he has a ready excuse whenever he wishes to get out of any social commitment, particularly when he would like to escape to the country. Algernon describes this pretext as “bunburying,” but he also uses the term to describe Jack’s false representation of himself as “Ernest” and his own masquerade as “Ernest.” Bunbury and “bunburying” thus represent deception, fiction, and escapism.

Bunbury Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

The The Importance of Being Earnest quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bunbury . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Importance of Being Earnest published in 1990.
Act 1, Part 1 Quotes

I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose.

Related Characters: Algernon Moncrieff (speaker)
Related Symbols: Town and Country , Bunbury
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

After Jack admits that he is Jack in the country and Ernest in the city, Algernon reveals that he, too, uses a made-up identity to escape to the country: he pretends that he has a friend named "Bunbury" who is very ill and lives outside of the city. Whenever Algernon feels that life in the city has become unbearable, he pretends to have received news that Bunbury is on death's doorstop, and that he must be by his side at once. He brands Jack's practice of inventing a brother named Ernest as "Bunburying." As bachelor members of the upper class, both Jack and Algernon want to do things that are considered "immoral" but fear social repercussions if found out by their families and peers. This leads to a "do as I say, not as I do" attitude that renders them both hypocritical in many of their actions. It is only due to their wealth and status in society that they are able to maintain such extravagant lifestyles—really, two each—and not get caught. Of course, their servants, such as Lane, whom they look down upon as "immoral" people, are well aware of the ironic gap between their views about society and the ways in which they actually act. 

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Bunbury Symbol Timeline in The Importance of Being Earnest

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bunbury appears in The Importance of Being Earnest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Part 1
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Name and Identity  Theme Icon
Jack’s confession confirms Algernon’s suspicion that his friend is a practiced “Bunburyist.” Algernon demands to know why Jack goes by one name in town and the other... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Name and Identity  Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality  Theme Icon
Algernon reveals that he has also invented an invalid friend named “Bunbury,” whose maladies are a ready excuse for Algernon whenever he chooses to go into the... (full context)
Act 1, Part 2
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality  Theme Icon
...on Saturday. He tells her he will not be able to attend on account of “Bunbury.” Lady Bracknell wishes that “Bunbury” would just choose to live or die, but Algernon distracts... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality  Theme Icon
...Gwendolen out to her carriage and Algernon informs Lane that he will be going out “Bunburying” tomorrow. Jack returns and Algernon comments that he is “anxious” about his friend “Bunbury.” Jack... (full context)
Act 2, Part 1
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Name and Identity  Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality  Theme Icon
...here at the estate and has been telling her a great deal about his friend “Bunbury.” (full context)
Act 2, Part 2
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
Name and Identity  Theme Icon
...country estate, masquerading as “Ernest” and shocked that he has been talking to Cecily about “Bunbury.” At Cecily’s prompting, Jack begrudgingly shakes Algernon’s hand. Miss Prism, Dr. Chasuble and Cecily leave... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage  Theme Icon
Name and Identity  Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love  Theme Icon
...they have ruined their chances of getting married, Algernon and Jack argue about their failed “Bunburying” schemes, which prohibit them from further excursions in town or country. They also debate about... (full context)
Act 3, Part 1
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction  Theme Icon
...on the scene, Lady Bracknell asks him if this is the residence of his friend “Bunbury.” Forgetting that he had told his aunt that he would be at his ailing friend’s... (full context)