Character Sketch of Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest

Jack or Ernest Worthing is one of the the central characters of the play, ‘The Importance of Being Eernest’. He is introduced to the audience at the very beginning of Act I. He had come to London to visit his beloved, Gwendolen Fairfax. But here we come to know that he was leading a double life. In the country, he was known as Jack Worthing and in London he had taken the name of Ernest. While explaining the reason for his double identity, Mr. Worthing tells his friend, Algernon that he was given the responsibility of Cecily by Mr. Thomas Cardew. Therefore, he was required to be serious. But as a young man, he used to get bored of playing this serious role. And to get temporary relief of this burden, he used to visit London under the pretext of meeting his Brother, Ernest. Actually, he had circulated a false story about his fictitious brother, Ernest that he was a careless young man who was spoiling his life in London. And so to take care of him Jack was required to visit him often.

On one such occasion, Jack had come to London with an intention to propose his beloved, Gwendolen. During the course of his interrogation by Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother, he told her that he was an orphan and was found in a handbag on Victoria Station to Mr. Thomas Cardew. This information about Jack’s origin made him unsuitable for the hand of Gwendolen as socially he was inferior to her. Though Lady Bracknell refused to accept Jack as her son-in-law, Gwendolen had determined to marry none other than Jack. Perhaps the most important reason for Gwendolen to choose him as her husband was his name Ernest. She was fascinated by his being Ernest. That is why Jack decided to rechristen him as Ernest as early as possible.

However, at the end of the play it becomes clear that Jack’s real name was Ernest and he was the elder brother of Algernon Moncrieff and Nephew to Lady Bracknell. It was so because as a child he was under the care of a nursemaid, named Miss Prism. One day Miss Prism put the baby in a perambulator and went for a walk. At that time, absent-mindedly, she put the manuscript of a three volume novel which she was writing in the perambulator and the baby was put in a handbag. Then she left the handbag on Victoria Station and disappeared from the scene. Afterwards this handbag was found by Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted the baby. Jack Worthing was the same baby put in the handbag by Miss Prism. Lady Bracknell recognized Miss Prism to be the same nursemaid who had disappeared twenty years ago with a baby boy of her sister. It means Jack was the nephew of Lady Bracknell. As per the convention of the time, being the eldest son, he was named after his father. So it was required to examine the list of the army. Accordingly, after due examination of the army records, it became clear that his father’s name was Ernest and so his name was also Ernest. This fact made it clear that he was a suitable husband for Gwendolen.

Thus it becomes clear that the whole life Jack was speaking truth. Here it has to be taken into consideration that though Jack Worthing had assumed a double identity, he had no any evil plan in his mind. He did not want to deceive anybody. He had taken the name of Ernest only because he wanted to get free, at least for the time being, from his serious responsibility and spend some happy moments in London. There is no any proof in the play which shows that at any moment he wished to take disadvantage of anybody. Therefore, it can be said that Jack or Ernest Worthing is really a lovable character of the play.

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