Jack and Algernon are wealthy gentlemen. Jack (known to Algernon as Ernest) lives a respectable life in the country providing an example to his young ward Cecily. Algernon lives in luxury in London and has invented an imaginary invalid friend (Bunbury) whom he visits in the country whenever an unappealing social engagement presents itself. Jack has also invented a character - a wayward younger brother called Ernest whom he uses as pretext for going up to London and enjoying himself.
Jack wants to marry Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, but must first convince her mother, Lady Bracknell, of the respectability of his parents. For Jack, having been abandoned in a handbag at Victoria station, this is quite a difficult task.
Algernon visits Jack’s house in the country and introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, knowing that Cecily is already fascinated by tales of Ernest's wickedness. He further wins her over and they become engaged. Shortly after, Jack arrives home announcing Ernest’s death. This sets off a series of farcical events. Cecily and Gwendolen have a genteel stand-off over which of them has a prior claim on ‘Ernest’. Jack and Algernon vie to be christened Ernest. Eventually, Jack discovers that his parents were Lady Bracknell’s sister and brother-in-law and that he is, in fact, Algernon’s older brother, called Ernest.
With so many characters assuming identities, the confusions quickly mount into a hilarious climax, proving that being earnest involves more than just a name.
Book in Detail
Characters To Personalise
John (Jack / Earnest) Worthing - Known as Jack in the country, Ernest in the city. He escapes country life by pretending to have a brother, Ernest, who continuously gets into trouble in the city and requires his assistance. He is the guardian of Cecily and wants to marry Gwendolen, but is not allowed to because her mother does not approve of his being found as an infant in Victoria Station.
NB. Both first name and last name you supply are replaced for Jack Worthing throughout the story. This character will continue to be recognised by his alter-ego, Earnest throughout the story.
Algernon Moncrieff - The play’s secondary hero. Algernon is a charming, idle, decorative bachelor, nephew of Lady Bracknell, cousin of Gwendolen Fairfax, and best friend of Jack Worthing, whom he has known for years as Ernest. He claims to have an ill friend, Bunbury, whom he visits in the country when he wants to escape the city.
NB. Both first name and last name you supply are replaced for Algernon Moncrieff throughout the story.
Gwendolen Fairfax - Daughter of Lady Bracknell. She wishes to marry Jack, whom she believes is “Ernest.”
NB. Both first name and last name you supply are replaced for Gwendolen Fairfax throughout the story.
Cecily Cardew - Ward of Jack. She wishes to marry Algernon, whom she believes is Jack’s younger brother “Ernest.”
NB. Both first name and last name you supply are replaced for Cecily Cardew throughout the story. Please note, the last name supplied will also be used for Thomas Cardew throughout the novel who found Jack at Victoria Station.
Lady Bracknell - The quintessential social ladder climber. Gwendolen’s mother and Algernon’s aunt. She refuses to allow the marriage of Gwendolen and Jack.
NB. The last name you supply will replace ‘Bracknell’ throughout the story, so the text will appear as Lady [last name].