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GRADE Grade 10
In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack Worthing and Gwendolen Bracknell have become engaged, but now Gwendolen’s mother wants to meet Jack. Read this excerpt from the comedy set in late-nineteenth-century England and answer the questions that follow.
from The Importance of Being Earnestby Oscar Wilde
   Jack. Gwendolen!
   Gwendolen. Yes, Mr. Worthing, what have you got to say to me?
   Jack. You know what I have got to say to you.
   Gwendolen. Yes, but you don’t say it.
5 Jack. Gwendolen, will you marry me? (Goes on his knees.)
   Gwendolen. Of course I will, darling. How long you have been about it! I am afraid you
   have had very little experience in how to propose.
   Jack. My own one, I have never loved anyone in the world but you.
   Gwendolen. Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know my brother Gerald does. All
10 my girl-friends tell me so. What wonderfully blue eyes you have, . . . ! They are quite, quite
   blue. I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people
   (Enter Lady Bracknell.)
   Lady Bracknell. Mr. Worthing! Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most
15 indecorous.*
   Gwendolen. Mamma! (He tries to rise; she restrains him.) I must beg you to retire. This
   is no place for you. Besides, Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet.
   Lady Bracknell. Finished what, may I ask?
   Gwendolen. I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma. (They rise together.)
20 Lady Bracknell. Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged
   to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An
   engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case
   may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself. . . . And now
   I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing. While I am making these inquiries, you,
25Gwendolen, will wait for me below in the carriage.
 Gwendolen (reproachfully). Mamma!
   Lady Bracknell. In the carriage, Gwendolen! (Gwendolen goes to the door. She and Jack
  blow kisses to each other behind Lady Bracknell’s back. Lady Bracknell looks vaguely
  about as if she could not understand what the noise was. Finally turns round.) Gwendolen, the 
30 carriage!
   Gwendolen. Yes, mamma. (Goes out, looking back at Jack.)
   Lady Bracknell (sitting down). You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing. (Looks in her pocket
  for notebook and pencil.)
   Jack. Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.
35 Lady Bracknell (pencil and notebook in hand). I feel bound to tell you that you are not
   down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of
   Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should
   your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?
   Jack. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
40 Lady Bracknell. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some
   kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
   Jack. Twenty-nine.
   Lady Bracknell. A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion
   that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do
45 you know?
   Jack (after some hesitation). I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
   Lady Bracknell. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with
   natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The
   whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate,
50 education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper
   classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?
   Jack. Between seven and eight thousand a year.
   Lady Bracknell (makes a note in her book). In land, or in investments?
   Jack. In investments, chiefly.
55 Lady Bracknell. That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during
   one’s life-time, and the duties exacted from one after one’s death, land has ceased to be either
   a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up. That’s all
that can be said about land.
   Jack. I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred
60 acres, I believe; but I don’t depend on that for my real income. In fact, as far as I can make
   out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.
   Lady Bracknell. A country house! How many bedrooms? Well, that point can be cleared
   up afterwards. You have a town house, I hope? A girl with a simple, unspoiled nature, like
   Gwendolen, could hardly be expected to reside in the country.
65 Jack. Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham.
   Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six months’ notice.
   Lady Bracknell. Lady Bloxham? I don’t know her.
   Jack. Oh, she goes about very little. She is a lady considerably advanced in years.
   Lady Bracknell. Ah, now-a-days that is no guarantee of respectability of character. What
70 number in Belgrave Square?
   Jack. 149.
   Lady Bracknell (shaking her head). The unfashionable side. I thought there was something.
   However, that could easily be altered.
   Jack. Do you mean the fashion, or the side?
75 Lady Bracknell (sternly). Both, if necessary, I presume. What are your politics?
   Jack. Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.
   Lady Bracknell. Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at
   any rate. Now to minor matters. Are your parents living?
   Jack. I have lost both my parents.
80 Lady Bracknell. Both? . . . That seems like carelessness. Who was your father? He was
   evidently a man of some wealth. Was he born in what the Radical papers call the purple of
   commerce, or did he rise from the ranks of the aristocracy?
   Jack. I am afraid I really don’t know. The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my
   parents. It would be nearer the truth to say that my parents seem to have lost me . . . I don’t
85 actually know who I am by birth. I was . . . well, I was found.
   Lady Bracknell. Found!
   Jack. The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly
   disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a
   first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a
90 seaside resort.
   Lady Bracknell. Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this
   seaside resort find you?
   Jack. (gravely). In a hand-bag.
   Lady Bracknell. A hand-bag?
95 Jack (very seriously). Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag—a somewhat large, black
   leather hand-bag, with handles to it—an ordinary hand-bag in fact.
   Lady Bracknell. In what locality did Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this
   ordinary hand-bag?
   Jack. In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own.
100 Lady Bracknell. The cloak-room at Victoria Station?
   Jack. Yes. The Brighton line.
   Lady Bracknell. The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered
   by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had
   handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that
105 remind one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that
   unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found,
   a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion—has probably,
    indeed, been used for the purpose before now—but it could hardly be regarded as an assured
   basis for a recognized position in good society.
110 Jack. May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do
   anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.
   Lady Bracknell. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some
   relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent,
   of either sex, before the season is quite over.
115 Jack. Well, I don’t see how I could possibly manage to do that. I can produce the hand-
   bag at any moment. It is in my dressing-room at home. I really think that should satisfy you,
   Lady Bracknell.
   Lady Bracknell. Me, sir! What has it to do with me? You can hardly imagine that I and
   Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl brought up with the utmost
120 care—to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel? Good morning,
   Mr. Worthing! (Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic indignation.)
* indecorous — lacking good taste
In the public domain.
2011 November Retest, English Language Arts - Grade 10
Download PDF Document Question 25 - Multiple-Choice

Reporting Category: Reading and Literature
Topic: 17 - Dramatic Literature

In line 46, what is the most likely reason Jack hesitates before responding?

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Last Updated: May 11, 2016
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