The Importance of Being Earnest

by Irene Schiff

In other words, the value of honesty.

The title of this test was borrowed from the famous play by Oscar Wilde in which we understand that there is not one truth only. Though it can bear many faces, it is nevertheless important. If it was impossible for the famous playwright to have a unique vision of honesty, how can we, mere mortals, find our points of reference? Should loyalty and honesty be our guides, or should we learn to adapt to different situations? Darwin would be today two hundred years old; what would he think of the relationship between the evolution of the species and loyal behaviour? Without being too philosophical and naturalistic about it (your sigh of relief was heard from a distance!); let's try to find out if sincerity is still appreciated and widespread or if it is an endangered concept. Is it time to contact WWF or are there still loyal people among us? The Importance of Being Earnest has been translated into many different languages. However, in most languages its title is untranslatable, since it relies on the fact that "Ernest" and "earnest" are homophones in English. But in Italian, what do honesty and sincerity link up with? Are these words still fashionable? Our sometimes dubious even dishonest behaviour makes us, or our wallet, feel better and allows us to use stereotypes like "those are the market rules" or "if you don't do it, somebody else will". Despite appearances, the majority of us appreciate in others and in ourselves appropriate behaviour and sincere friendship. With this test, we are not trying to identify the absolute lack of uprightness (besides, how could there be such people among you dear readers!!), there are those who, on the edge of a ravine, prefer to remain on safe grounds and those who are challenged by the emptiness below.

Test: how honest are you?

1) When you hear the word "treasure", you think about:
a) the pirates' coffer
b) a bank
c) your love

2) Would you cancel a commitment already taken with people in order to take up a more pleasant one?
a) only if all the others agreed
b) yes
c) no

3) You are reading a very gripping thriller:
a) you immediately want to read who is guilty
b) you read it normally
c) you read it all in one go

4) You see garbage on the ground of a public park, you think:
a) there are not enough waste disposals
b) the people responsible for the upkeep of the park have not done their job
c) how ill-mannered some people are 

5) You are reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood, you are:
a) the grandmother
b) the hunter
c) the wolf

6) You are playing a card game, you could cheat and no one would know:
a) you are undecided
b) you cheat
c) you don't cheat

7) This time, by cheating, you would win important prizes:
a) you are undecided
b) you cheat
c) you don't cheat

8) You remember more easily:
a) the harm that was done to you
b) the pleasures you have had
c) the friendships you have

9) You didn't know, but you were wrong, you think:
a) they led me into doing the wrong thing
b) no one will see it
c) I say I'm sorry

10) When you hear the words "do it", you think about:

a) a song you heard
b) Nike's slogan
c) a command to do something

11) You hop on a horse, you are:
a) Zorro
b) a cowboy
c) in a joust

12) You discover a new constellation:
a) you give it your loved one's name
b) you go on television
c) you inform the Astronomers' Association

13) You hear someone say "he is a great actor". They are talking about a person:
a) in a movie
b) who is false
c) who is friendly

14) A colleague was promoted based on the work someone else did, you think:
a) they all do it
b) he is very clever
c) he is dishonest

15) This time, the work which was taken was yours:
a) you speak to him openly about it
b) you tell the boss
c) wait for him outside


Question A B C

Question A B C
1) 1 2 3
2) 2 1 3
3) 1 3 2
4) 1 2 3
5) 3 2 1
6) 2 1 3
7) 2 1 3
8) 1 3 2
9) 3 2 1
10) 3 2 1
11) 3 2 1
12) 2 1 3
13) 3 1 2
14) 2 1 3
15) 3 2 1



Others always know what you are thinking either because you are fundamentally truthful, or because even if you forced yourself to play the clever one by telling an inoffensive lie, everyone would know. The work of magician wouldn't suit you at all, but, sometimes, a little diplomacy would increase your assets.


Which is best, a compassionate lie or a sad truth? You think that there is no clear-cut answer but that it depends on the people and the circumstances and, if you really must... you will not tell a lie but will withhold part of the truth.


Astuteness is one of your qualities, word games, and unclear situations titillate your inquisitiveness. From the stage on which you are acting and disguising yourself, two new spectators are watching you: the fox and the chameleon, they could acquire new skills.

Picture - Treasure coffer

Picture - Waste disposal

Picture - Card player

Image - Little Red Riding Hood