The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde – Quick Book Summary



Affiliate Disclaimer: We may receive commissions for purchases made through links on this website.


This succinct summary encapsulates Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” It explores the play’s plot, themes, characters, and Wilde’s satirical portrayal of Victorian high society. It further delves into the author’s background, critical reception, and lasting impact. It serves as an insightful guide for readers familiar and new to Wilde’s witty and humorous style.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Book Information:

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre: Comedy, Satire
Publication Year: 1895

Brief Overview:

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a comedic play that skewers Victorian manners and aristocratic attitudes while emphasizing the essential superficiality of high society.


Author’s Background:

Oscar Wilde, born in 1854, was a renowned Irish poet, playwright, and author. Known for his wit and flamboyant style, his works often criticized societal norms.

Publication Context:

The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s last play, premiered in London in 1895. It was a resounding success despite Wilde’s personal controversies.

Character Summary

Main Characters:

1. John Worthing (Jack)
2. Algernon Moncrieff
3. Gwendolen Fairfax
4. Cecily Cardew
5. Lady Bracknell

Character Development:

Throughout the play, Jack and Algernon evolve from self-serving deceivers to individuals accepting their true identities and responsibilities.

Plot Summary


The play centers around mistaken identities, love pursuits, and societal satire, concluding with surprising revelations and happy unions.


The story unfolds in Victorian-era England, shifting between an urban London home and a rural Hertfordshire manor.

Themes and Motifs

Key Themes:

1. The Superficiality of Society
2. The Importance of Being Earnest
3. Deception and Double Lives

Motifs and Symbols:

Food and Diaries serve as recurring motifs, symbolizing excess and secrets, respectively.

Takeaway Morals


The play’s core message centers on the superficiality and hypocrisy of Victorian society.


The satire can be applied to contemporary society, prompting us to question our own societal norms and superficialities.


Literary Devices:

Wilde employs irony, satire, and farce to expose societal flaws and hypocrisy.

Style and Tone:

The play is written in a humorous and satirical tone, reflecting Wilde’s keen wit.

Critical Reception

Initial Reception:

The play was well-received, appreciated for its wit and commentary on Victorian society.

Current Standing:

The play remains a popular classic, still performed worldwide for its timeless humor and social critique.

Personal Response

Personal Opinion:

This play is a delightful farce, full of hilarious and witty dialogue. It’s a ‘punny’ experience – get it? Because the name ‘Ernest’… never mind.


Definitely recommended for those seeking an amusing read and those interested in societal satire.

About the Author


Oscar Wilde was an Irish author known for his sharp wit, flamboyant style, and literary skill.

Literary Career:

Wilde’s career comprises acclaimed works like “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and various influential plays.

Book Details

Publication Details:

“The Importance of Being Earnest” was first published in 1895 by Leonard Smithers in London.

Structural Details:

The play consists of three acts spread across 76 pages in the original edition.



“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a timeless comedy that humorously critiques societal norms and hypocrisy.

Final Thoughts:

As one of Wilde’s most renowned works, it offers a blend of comedy, wit, and societal commentary, making it a worthwhile read.

  • Père Goriot, by Honoré de Balzac – Quick Book Summary

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami – Quick Book Summary

  • The Sorrows of Young Werther”, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Quick Book Summary

  • A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf – Quick Book Summary

About the author

Latest posts