Oscar Wilde Food Analysis

1538 Words7 Pages
How does Wilde portray food as both a weapon and as a means of demonstrating one’s power? Discuss three examples from the play to demonstrate how Wilde uses food. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is concerned with externals: names, clothes, manners and food. Ellman calls the play “Wilde’s most brilliant work” and goes on to say “it is a record of Wilde’s emotion in that it excludes them”. 1 In the setting and tone of the play, food becomes important because other issues such as survival, morality and emotion are not addressed. So relationships and conflicts between individuals are often centered on food. In Act 1, the cucumber sandwiches are used as sign of the hospitality offered to a powerful guest. In the teatime scene between Cecily…show more content…
Algernon resorts to comfort eating and Jack is angry accusing Algernon of heartless Bunburyism (although this is somewhat hypocritical as he has deceived Gwendolyn in the same way). However there is conflict in this scene symbolized by the fight for possession of the muffin dish. There are two codes of behavior which are breached by both men. As a host Jack is ungracious, trying to stop his guest from eating the muffins and insisting that he leaves. As a guest Algernon eats all the muffins too greedily. On a deeper level the power struggle is about style. Jack is in earnest, serious and genuinely upset. Whereas Algernon is amused by the entire situation and careless of the consequences. Algernon’s attitude is the one that prevails leading the audience to identify it with the voice of Wilde: “In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential”. 2 Throughout “The Importance of Being Earnest” there is an inversion of the serious and the trivial. It is expressed by Algernon when he says, “I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them” It is a “serious comedy for trivial people” because the triviality of food carries serious meanings. The way you serve tea expresses a reaction to power and status. The way you eat muffins expresses a conflict between a hedonistic and a moral philosophy of
Open Document