“This dignified silence seems to be producing an unpleasant effect.”

For my dramatic literature class, I am reading The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

It’s not the first time I’ve read this play; it won’t be the last.  I have, as you all know, long been intrigued by English matters of all sorts, and literature is no exception.  This play was introduced to me during my early teens, when a good family friend took me to see the just-released movie with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett.

Importance of Being EarnestIt changed my life.  Image from here.

I immediately procured a copy of the play’s text and devoured it in hours, or less.  I found myself underlining and earmarking nearly every page—it got to where my markings meant nothing, so abundant were they in quantity.  I could not fathom the wit one person must have developed in order to write such a masterpiece.  To this day, a huge section of my “Favourite Quotes” list is compiled of one-liners from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Lines like…

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

“If I am occasionally a littler over-dressed, I make up for it be being always immensely over-educated.”

“It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist.  It produces a false impression.”

“I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.”

“Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people.  The thing has become an absolute public nuisance.  I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.”

And those are only in the first act—imagine!

But there was a line I must have missed when first I read the play back in my high school days; leastwise, I may have caught it, but its truthfulness didn’t register until now, years later.  Observe:

ALGERNON: The truth is rarely pure and never simple.  Modern life would be very tedious if it were, and modern literature a complete impossibility!

JACK: That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing.

ALGERNON: Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow.  Don’t try it.  You should leave that to people who haven’t been at University. They do it so well in the daily papers.

“You should leave literary criticism to the people who haven’t been at University”—what a delightful notion.  Now, if only I didn’t have to critique this particular literary work for a paper at University.

I know, I know…it was only last week that I committed myself to bearing through school with a dignified silence, keeping my mouth closed when questioned how I like my classes.  Well, as it happens, I have the self-control of a turnip green, or perhaps a massive turd.  Whichever you choose, I have found my new close-lipped attitude excruciatingly painful.  It’s like trying to keep a secret when you know—you KNOW!—you are the first to know the news.  Plus, it’s really hard for me to produce decent posts when I deny myself of cynicism.  {It’s my fall-back, you know.}

So allow me to vent just this once, and then I’ll recommit myself to the noble cause.

I am majoring in English because I thought it would be a good credential for an aspiring writer.  An aspiring writer of fiction…novels…humour columns in the local paper…  Not, however, a writer of literary criticisms.  I don’t care for formal essay-writing methods.  I dread writing research papers.  It’s ironic that, on my path to become a writer, I am met with so many tasks of loathsome writing.

My life is one giant, tangled, coughed-up hairball of ironies.  I slay myself. Literally.

Anyway, since I’d much rather be reading the play or watching the movie than writing an essay on it, I’ve decided to share with you one of my favourite (though indeed, there are many) bits of the 2002 film production.  If you’ve seen it, have a good laugh for a second time.  If you haven’t seen it…you really ought.

To those of you sneakily reading this post from a cubicle at work, I’m sorry to have posted a video clip.  I know it’s annoying.  But do try and watch it at some point before the day is through—it’s charming and lovely and embodies everything about this play that captured my heart those seven years ago.

Seven years?  Geeze louise, I’m getting old.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in Book Reports, do what I say, looking back, my edjumacation and me, reviews, short films, thisandthat, what I'm about and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to “This dignified silence seems to be producing an unpleasant effect.”

  1. Geneva says:

    I. love. this. play.

    How wretched to have to write about it for a class! Best of luck!

  2. chelsie says:

    I am adding this movie to my netfix line up right now…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Holy freaking crap. I forgot how much I love this movie. I am going to go rent it tonight. Well, it’s midnight and my baby is asleep and my husband is not home and I’m in a tank top with my gs showing all over the place. Maybe tomorrow morning.

    How very funny that you and I both highlighted the same quote. I didn’t even realize it until I came to comment that we both picked up on the same line. I think this is probably the story of my life:



    Amen, and amen. Dignified silence is for the freaking birds. What’s that quote? Something along the lines of, “Well-behave women seldom make history.” And that’s that. My life in a nutshell.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And isn’t Reese Witherspoon’s hair just breath-taking?

  5. Katie says:

    I have to admit with shame that I have never read or seen TIOBE. Isn’t that sad? As an English major myself, I have to hide my head in shame.

    My mother likes to point out that my English degree qualified me for a droll desk job and “diddling around with a blog.”

    Sigh…. We’re just misunderstood, Camille.

  6. Kristen says:

    Argh! I HATE writing research papers. Every time I have to write one I feel like it’s the first one I have ever written and I have no idea what I’m doing. I HATE writing them so much that they almost made me hate writing my normal material (stories, poems etc). Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one.

  7. jetro says:

    i remember my uncle sandy saying this once, in a talk he gave somewhere, something like, you will have many different careers in your life, (he’s very forwardminded), but just do what you love.
    sure, we all say that now.
    do we do it.
    what can you do.

  8. jetro says:

    epps, forgot to say, HBDAY2U, HBDAY2U, HBDAYCMLLE, HBDAY2U!!

  9. jetro says:


  10. Jeff says:

    I also had to write in regards to this play some time ago. And yes, happy b-day tomorrow!

  11. Maureen says:

    Oh I love this play! One of my favorite words ever is Bunbury. And my favorite way to use it in a sentence…. “I cannot do my work today because I am busy picking berries off the bunbury bush!”

  12. anna says:

    I’ve never seen this but will put it on my need to see list.

    Darn, too bad I missed your TOMS giveaway. See what happens when I go MIA for too long?

  13. bRAD says:

    I recently read A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Half way through the first chapter I decided it was one of my top 5 favorite books. Freaking brilliant. I too wondered how a person could be so clever. I underlined something on probably about every page. Like you, some pages where covered in pencil marks.

  14. English teachers ruin everything.
    Mine reduced me to tears today.

  15. TeamHaynes says:

    I’ve never heard of this play but now you have me really interested. I’ll add it to my netflix. There was a time when I wanted to be an English major. Then I took AP English. I went back to psych. Better for me I’m sure.

Comments are closed.