Culture Of Names

Submitted By ambearcx
Words: 973
Pages: 4

Jackson Witsell
Mr. Ollis
British Literature CPA
March 26, 2015

A Culture of Names: An Analytical Essay on The Importance of Being Earnest Names are very important to our culture. They provide us with a title that we view as being suited to us. They can affect how others think about us before they even get to know us. A refined, nice-sounding name might make others think highly of us; whereas a gruff, ugly-sounding name that is not aesthetically pleasing might give off a bad vibe. Naming can also show just how much our parents took care in figuring out a proper title for us. Regardless of what some may say, our names do create a definitive first impression of us whether we like it or not. It is this very aspect of human nature that inspires much of the plot in Oscar Wilde’s Victorian era play, The Importance of Being Earnest. The play is a satire of that particular era, showing the pretentious and shallow nature of London’s upper-class at the time. The plot chronicles a fast-paced comedy involving two men named Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncreiff who both lie to the women they are engaged to about their first names being Ernest. Their reason for doing this is because both of their women, Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, find the name Ernest highly appealing and only want to marry a man with said name. It is obvious that the name is empowering to the men and confidence-inspiring to the women, thus depicting the shallow nature of the Victorian culture. The reason why the men find “Ernest” to be such an empowering name is based solely on the influence of the women. Gwendolyn says to Jack early on in the play “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.” (Act I Part 2) . She says this because the superficial title is more important than the substance of the person she is marrying. As men who are both primarily trying to gain the approval of their women, Jack and Algernon are willing to take on any name that would paint them in a complimentary light. This just shows that women at the time were viewed much more like prizes to be won than actual minds worthy of being challenged. The men go at great length to use such a superficial cause just to impress them rather than being honest and secure in their own names. Having the women praise them for having the aesthetically-pleasing name, Ernest, results in blowing up their egos. Having the approval of the women makes the men feel important to society and deserving of more praise. This just shows how appearance-based the priorities of men were during this time period. Despite the fact that the men’s names belong to them, they are equally as important, if not more, to the women. A woman’s role in this society was not a major one. Even though they were usually well-educated, they generally did not play a major role in business affairs and lived simple lives full of luxury and free-time. This resulted in them feeling obligated to impress the other women in their social circle. A very big aspect of this was having a prestigious appearance to show off to the other women. Naming was a major part of this because it implemented an important aesthetic that gave off the appearance of wealth and power. To a woman, every aspect of a man’s appearance was vital to gaining the approval of the other important women in the social circle. In addition to naming, this included social status, income,