The Importance of Being Earnest


Oscar Wilde

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Orphans and Wards Symbol Analysis

Orphans and Wards Symbol Icon
Both Jack and Cecily are orphans. Jack’s lack of family relations makes it difficult for him to marry Gwendolen and settle into a traditional family arrangement. While Cecily’s ancestry is officially documented in books, she becomes an orphan, or ward when her grandfather dies. Her parents aren’t even mentioned. Cecily’s parental figures, Jack and Miss Prism, at best, are only mildly attentive to her needs. Jack and Cecily’s status as orphans highlight the place of love and imagination in the creation of family bonds. Both Jack and Cecily invent fictional relationships in order to forge real connections with the other characters. Jack creates a brother “Ernest” so that he can more easily court Gwendolen in town, while Cecily imagines a romance with “Ernest,” which ends up developing into a real engagement with Algernon. While characters like Lady Bracknell place heavy emphasis on the importance of family ties in society, Jack and Cecily don't have such social connections, instead relying on love and imagination to form relationships with others.

Orphans and Wards Quotes in The Importance of Being Earnest

The The Importance of Being Earnest quotes below all refer to the symbol of Orphans and Wards. 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
Act 1, Part 1 Quotes

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:
Act 1, Part 2 Quotes

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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Orphans and Wards Symbol Timeline in The Importance of Being Earnest

The timeline below shows where the symbol Orphans and Wards appears in The Importance of Being Earnest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Part 2
The Pursuit of Marriage Theme Icon
Cash, Class, and Character Theme Icon
...relations. Instead of describing his parents, Jack reveals to Lady Bracknell that he is an orphan. He was found tucked in a handbag in a cloak roam at the Victoria railway... (full context)
Act 2, 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
...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 guardian. “Ernest” is actually Jack’s... (full context)