The Importance of Being Earnest

Ernest Symbol Icon
Similar to Bunbury, Ernest represents deception, fiction, and escapism, but also idealism. While Algernon and Jack attempt to masquerade as the real Ernest, he is just as fictional as Algernon’s Bunbury. Similarly Jack uses the mischievous antics of his brother Ernest to escape to the city, just as Algernon uses Bunbury as an excuse to escape to the country. Even so, Gwendolen and Cecily hold up Ernest as an ideal name, as well as husband. Both women not only fantasize about marrying a man named Ernest, they say it is a name that “inspires absolute confidence.” Their idealism is reflected in these “girlish dream[s]” and definitive assertions.

Ernest Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

The The Importance of Being Earnest quotes below all refer to the symbol of Ernest. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Importance of Being Earnest published in 1990.
Act 1, Part 1 Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 3, Part 2 Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugia

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Ernest Symbol Timeline in The Importance of Being Earnest

The timeline below shows where the symbol Ernest 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
...of the inscription, Algernon produces a business card from the case with the name “Mr. Ernest Worthing” printed on it and insists that he has only every known his friend as... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
...excuses, Jack reluctantly confesses that his name is actually Jack and that he goes by “Ernest” in town and “Jack” in the country. (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
...let loose and enjoy himself, so he pretends to have an unruly younger brother named “Ernest,” whose antics in the city compel him to rush off to London frequently. (full context)
Act 1, Part 2
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
...expresses her affection for him, announcing that it is her “ideal” to love someone named “Ernest” because the name inspires “absolute confidence.” When Worthing suggests that she might marry a “Jack,”... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
...comforts his friend for having no relations, Jack decides to kill off his fictional brother “Ernest,” deciding that he will “die” in Paris of a “severe chill.” (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...is a young and beautiful girl of eighteen holding an intense fascination with Jack’s brother, “Ernest.” (full context)
Act 2, Part 1
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
...with them. Prism remarks that Mr. Worthing is an upstanding man whose “unfortunate” younger brother “Ernest” causes many “troubles in his life.” Cecily wishes that “Ernest” would visit them, suggesting that... (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... (full context)
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...dandy, greets his “little cousin” 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... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Hypocrisy, Folly, and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
...in mourning clothes, surprising Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble. Jack tells them that his brother “Ernest” has just died abroad in Paris of a “severe chill.” While Dr. Chasuble offers his... (full context)
Act 2, Part 2
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
...greets Algernon coldly, furious that Algernon has showed up at his country estate, masquerading as “Ernest” and shocked that he has been talking to Cecily about “Bunbury.” At Cecily’s prompting, Jack... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
...to leave. Algernon insists that that he is staying for week, but Jack asserts that “Ernest” has been called back to town and instructs Merriman to order a dog-cart to take... (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
...their engagement confirmed, Cecily confesses that she has always dreamed of marrying a man named “Ernest” because it inspires “absolute confidence.” When Algernon asks if she could love a man with... (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
...visitor to the house, but shows concern when she learns that Cecily is actually Mr. Ernest Worthing’s young and beautiful ward. Cecily corrects her, informing Gwendolen that Jack Worthing is her... (full context)
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
Believing that they are both engaged to “Ernest,” Cecily and Gwendolen’s jealousies play out over the course of a tea service. Gwendolen refuses... (full context)
The Art of Deception: Fact v. Fiction Theme Icon
Name and Identity Theme Icon
Men and Women in Love Theme Icon
...denies this. Yet Cecily takes great pleasure in pointing out that Gwendolen’s betrothed is not “Ernest,” but her guardian Uncle Jack. Cecily goes to Algernon’s side and declares that he is... (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
...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 all. Cecily and Gwendolen, distraught... (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
...in town or country. They also debate about who will ultimately take the name of “Ernest” at their upcoming christenings with Dr. Chasuble. Jack asserts that he should take the name... (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
...enter from the garden, Cecily demands to know why Algernon pretended to be Jack’s brother, “Ernest.” Algernon replies that he masqueraded as “Ernest” so that he could meet her. Cecily finds... (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
...suspects Algernon of being “untruthful,” listing the crimes his friend has perpetrated while masquerading as “Ernest.” Jack will not consent to Cecily’s marriage, until Lady Bracknell consents to Gwendolen’s. (full context)
Act 3, Part 2
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
...that he has been telling the truth the entire time: his name is in fact Ernest, but also John, and he does have a troublesome younger brother, Algernon. Jack turns to... (full context)