The Importance of Being Earnest was one of Wilde’s Victorian melodramas. There are plenty elements of satire, intellectual travesty, a comic take on Victorian manners and an appealing superficial-ness that makes it a light comedy. Behind this charade of humor though lie deeper, more serious undertones. The play is a take at the extreme hypocrisy and cloying moralism’s that were distinct marks of the Victorian era.In Act I of The Important of Being Earnest, the term and concept of ‘Bunbury’ is first introduced when Algernon accuses Jack of “being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist’. After some prodding and explaining, Jack manages to evoke the meaning of Bunburying. Bunburying could be defined, according to Algernon, as the creation of an elaborate alibi or deception that could work as a cover for misbehavior while maintaining the image of adhering to the highest social standards.In simpler words, Algernon invented a fictitious friend called Bunbury, who resided in the countryside and was apparently very ill. Whenever Algy needed to weasel out of a social obligation he had no intentions of meeting, he would use Bunbury’s failing health as an excuse. Bunbury was a means of escaping into the countryside from the throes and woes of the city for Algernon.In the specific case Algernon used to explain ‘Bunburying’, he mentioned how he was invited to yet another dinner at his Aunt Augusta’s house, and he did not have the will to go through more than one family encounter in the week. To escape that, Bunbury was going to be terribly sick again.
Bunbury, according to Algernon, was no trivial deception. It was more intricate than that. There were rules involved, which could not be explained because the conversation was cut short by the a…
…g her. When the Gwendolen questions Jack, it turns out to be a close-ended question, since she explicitly asks him if he created a fake brother simply to meet her. Jack simply agreed, though the truth may have been far from that. His reasons to have a second identity as Ernest could be for a number of reasons, but Gwendolen “crushed” these doubts in her mind.
In fact, by the end of it, Algernon, who was possibly the biggest advocate of Bunburyism out there, killed Bunbury off. His deception was harmless, not dragging those close to him into the picture. The same could not be said for Jack.This is the more clever and serious undertone to this otherwise superficial comedy. The Victorian era was marked with hypocrisy, and people regularly lived dual lives. Fiction and reality were heavily twisted together, and many a times, people lost the fine line between the two.