The Importance of Being Earnest

a.k.a. Ernest / Mr. Ernest Worthing / Uncle Jack / John Worthing, J.P. / Ernest John. The protagonist of the play, Jack seems like a respectable young man, but leads a double life as a clever dandy. He goes by “Ernest” in town and “Jack” in the country. Meanwhile, he pretends to have a brother also named “Ernest” whose mischief frequently calls him back to town. The adopted son of Mr. Thomas Cardew, Jack is not only heir to a fortune, but also guardian to Cardew’s granddaughter, Cecily. Jack’s engagement to Gwendolen Fairfax is endangered after a comedy of errors leads her to uncover Cecily’s existence and Jack’s true identity. The "J.P." initials after his name stand for “Justice of the Peace.”

Jack Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

The The Importance of Being Earnest quotes below are all either spoken by Jack or refer to Jack. 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

Jack: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

Algernon: I thought you had come up for pleasure?...I call that business.

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Algernon Moncrieff (speaker), Gwendolen Fairfax
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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I have introduced you to everyone as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn't Ernest.

Related Characters: Algernon Moncrieff (speaker), Jack
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Jack: When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone…And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness if carried to excess, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger borther of the anem of Ernest…who gets into the most dreadful scrapes. The, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.

Algernon: The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility.

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

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Act 1, Part 2 Quotes

Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you…my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.

Related Characters: Gwendolen Fairfax (speaker), Jack
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune…to lose both seems like carelessness.

Related Characters: Lady Bracknell (speaker), Jack
Related Symbols: Orphans and Wards
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl brought up with the utmost care—to marry into a cloak-room and form an alliance with a parcel.

Related Characters: Lady Bracknell (speaker), Jack, Gwendolen Fairfax, Lord Bracknell
Related Symbols: Jack’s Handbag, The Coatroom at Victoria Station and The Brighton Line
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Part 1 Quotes

Your Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. That is all!

Related Characters: Gwendolen Fairfax (speaker), Cecily Cardew (speaker), Jack, Algernon Moncrieff
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected with any of the larger railway stations in London? I merely desire information. Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus.

Related Characters: Lady Bracknell (speaker), Jack, Cecily Cardew
Related Symbols: The Coatroom at Victoria Station and The Brighton Line
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Part 2 Quotes

Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one who has suffered? Cannot repentance wipe out an act of folly? Why should there be one law for men and another for women?

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Miss Prism
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: Jack (speaker), Gwendolen Fairfax
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.

Related Characters: Jack (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ernest
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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Jack Character Timeline in The Importance of Being Earnest

The timeline below shows where the character Jack 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 Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Lane announces the arrival of Algernon’s friend, Mr. Ernest Worthing (Jack) who has been away in the country. Seeing the tea service, Jack asks Algernon... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Jack attempts to take one of the cucumber sandwiches set out for tea, but Algernon insists... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Jack initially denies the existence of Cecily, but Algernon instructs Lane to bring out the cigarette... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Irked, Jack says that Cecily is his aunt. Algernon goads his friend further, gradually building up contradictions... (full context)
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... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Jack confides in Algernon that Mr. Thomas Cardew adopted him as a young boy. At the... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
...are a ready excuse for Algernon whenever he chooses to go into the country. While Jack finds “Bunbury” to be an “absurd name,” Algernon cautions his friend against doing away with... (full context)
Act 1, Part 2
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Lane announces the arrival of Lady Bracknell and Miss Gwendolen Fairfax. Gwendolen flirts with Jack, while Lady Bracknell gossips with Algernon about her recently widowed friend. Lady Bracknell asks for... (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
Algernon leads Lady Bracknell out of the parlor, allowing Jack and Gwendolen a moment alone. Jack declares his love for Gwendolen and she expresses her... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
As Jack is down on one knee, proposing to Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell bursts on to the scene,... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Alone, Lady Bracknell asks Jack a series of questions relating to his wealth, residences, and family relations. Jack replies that... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
The conversation transitions as Algernon plies Jack for information about Cecily. Unaware that his descriptions of Cecily are encouraging Algernon’s interest in... (full context)
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
Gwendolen reenters and asks to speak with Jack privately. Algernon turns around but eavesdrops, anyway. She tells Jack that though their marriage may... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Jack sees Gwendolen out to her carriage and Algernon informs Lane that he will be going... (full context)
Act 2, Part 1
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
At the Manor House, Jack’s country estate, Miss Prism struggles to focus Cecily’s attention on her studies. Prism reminds Cecily... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
When Cecily is alone in the garden, Merriman announces the arrival of Mr. Ernest Worthing and presents his business card. It is the same card that Jack stored in his... (full context)
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...Cecily, who is excited to finally meet her “wicked cousin Ernest.” She tells Algernon that Jack will not be back until Monday because he is buying traveling clothes for “Ernest” to... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Jack enters slowly dressed in mourning clothes, surprising Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. Jack tells them... (full context)
Act 2, Part 2
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Jack greets Algernon coldly, furious that Algernon has showed up at his country estate, masquerading as... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Outraged, Jack tells Algernon that he has to leave. Algernon insists that that he is staying for... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
Jack goes to change and Cecily comes out to the garden. Before departing, Algernon declares his... (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
...at the manor house to Cecily. The two women, unaware of each other’s connections to Jack or Algernon, greet each other in the garden. Gwendolen assumes that Cecily is a visitor... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
As tensions come to a head, Jack and Algernon arrive, one after the other, having separately made appointments with Dr. Chasuble to... (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
...been fooled, Gwendolen and Cecily embrace each other and demand to know the whereabouts of Jack’s brother and their fiancé, “Ernest.” Jack confesses that he does not have a brother at... (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
Realizing that 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... (full context)
Act 3, Part 1
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...from a window; the women eagerly await the men to enter. Gwendolen intends to give Jack and Algernon the silent treatment, but when the two men enter from the garden, Cecily... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
But even though Algernon and Jack tell Cecily and Gwendolen exactly what they want to hear, both ladies insist that Algernon... (full context)
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
Embracing their suitors, Gwendolen and Cecily praise Jack and Algernon for their “physical courage” and “self-sacrifice” when Lady Bracknell unexpectedly arrives. Having bribed... (full context)
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Seeing Cecily holding hands with Algernon piques Lady Bracknell’s interest. Jack explains that Cecily is his ward, and Algernon announces her as his fiancée. Lady Bracknell... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Jack obligingly offers information about Cecily, conveying to Lady Bracknell that her relations are respectably recorded,... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
Jack, realizing that he can use his position as Cecily’s guardian to persuade Lady Bracknell into... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...Lady Bracknell is about to leave with Gwendolen when Dr. Chasuble arrives, prepared to christen Jack and Algernon. Jack explains that the ceremony is no longer necessary and Dr. Chasuble says... (full context)
Act 3, Part 2
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Upon hearing this detail, Jack feverishly asks Miss Prism about where she left the handbag. Whimpering, she admits to having... (full context)
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Miss Prism recoils, reminding Jack that she is unmarried. Jack misconstrues her point, launching into a speech about forgiveness and... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Without fanfare, Lady Bracknell explains that Jack is the son of her poor dead sister, Mrs. Moncrief, which also makes him Algernon’s... (full context)
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
But the mystery of Jack’s true name remains, as his present name remains an “irrevocable” obstacle to Gwendolen’s consent. Lady... (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
Jack realizes that he has been telling the truth the entire time: his name is in... (full context)