Bunburyist is a strange word that I doubt you will find in any English dictionary. The term Burnburyist here was used by Algernon Moncrieff to describe an act for pretending that someone has a (imaginary) friend or brother or relative for the purpose to run away from tiresome social obligation. He found himself lucky knowing that his friend Jack Worthing had a same secret as his, Jack also has fake bother named Ernest that always masking trouble and needed to be save by his big brother Jack, but the fact is Jack is Ernest himself, he created Ernest to give himself a leisure time in London to do whatever he wants despite his obligation as a guardian of eighteen year old Cecily Cardew, a landlord and other responsibility.
If Jack had Ernest, Algernon had Bunbury, his invalid friend that always ill and had to stay in bed. The conflict begin after Jack/Ernest fell in love with Gwendolyn Fairfax, Algernon cousin, fortunately Gwen also love him and accept his proposal because she loves being married with someone named Ernest that inspire absolute confidence, she could not love anybody else that has a different name. For her, the name Jack is too plain for her and refuse married someone named Jack. This made Jack very confuse and decided to christen as Ernest.
In the other hand, Algernon decided to pay a visit to Cecily and posing as Jack bother’s Ernest. Cecily found him charming and funny and decided to marry him after Algernon/Ernest proposed. Poor Algernon, he really loves Cecily and feeling sad after found out that Cecily, similar to Gwen, interested in him only because his name is Ernest, she probably not wanted to married someone named Algernon. The same as Jack, he decided to get himself christened as Ernest. How will this mess be managed?
I found that this play was humorous and also ridiculous in other side. The plot is quick, the dialogue is amusing but somehow the conflict is a little bit superficial. Frankly speaking, I think this play is the only one classic literature that I’ve read (especially Victorian novels) that not stressed me with many details of role character and their feelings, it just fun and not easy to forget because it’s a short play. Even though the conflicts are not deep enough but we could draw several moral lesson: that earnest is importance and lie needs another lies to work. This made me curious to find another Wilde’s piece of work. If you need a break during Wuthering Heights or Great Expectation, Oscar Wilde works will amuse you, I guarantee it.
I’m surprise to know that Oscar Wilde has an awful life in his late age. Before become famous because of his works, he was a flamboyant man that although not very wealthy he was famous. He was imprisoned because of Marquess of Queensberry (who is homophobic) accusation that Oscar made his son, Lord Alfred a homosexual. According to the law at late 18th century, homosexual was a crime. After released from prison his spirit was broken and decided to live in Paris as a poor man. Despite his story of life, this witty and amusing play should list as must read book/plays.