Importance of Being Earnest: Dinner is Served

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Food is the world’s safe house. Primarily, food is what keeps the body in working order. Behind the scenes, food creates an industry that is incomparable to any other. From diners to fishermen, and from bakeries to slaughterhouses, food is known by all. Oscar Wilde takes this universal knowledge of food to create the compelling social satire known as “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Wilde cleverly brings readers into a new world of secrecy, fantasy, and power through the need to eat. With the onset of the “New Woman” era, Oscar Wilde uses food to introduce his humourously repulsed opinion on the freedom of women, while alluding to the struggle of being accepted in this previously unheard of society. In the opening pages of “The Importance of Being Earnest”, the reader has the pleasure of joining in on the preparation of cucumber sandwiches for Lady Bracknell’s arrival. The metaphor “cool as a cucumber” shows great relevance in the play. Cucumber sandwiches are a basic necessity required for tea time in upper class society. They are not substantial enough for a meal but are costly as a snack. Thus, only the “cool” people typically serve them. Cucumber sandwiches are arbitrarily discussed when Algernon is eating away but refuses to allow Jack to have any. This occurrence displays the competitiveness within both male characters. Algernon devours the plate of sandwiches giving evidence that he is extremely stressed. When Algernon demands that Jack must stop eating Gwendolen’s bread and butter, marriage is brought up, hinting at Algernon’s jealousy of Jack. Algernon’s stress is invariably sexual frustration. As Algernon and Jack compete for power, Lady Bracknell arrives demanding her pre-ordered snack. In response,... ... middle of paper ... penalized. By introducing specific characters, imagery and comedic events, Wilde creates a hilarious play that can be seen by many. Starting with the simple, carnal need for food and imbuing it with multiple meanings, Wilde proves he is talented. Wilde is not impressed with society and proves this by revealing the loss of intuition, happiness and identity while under the rule of women. In reality, an apple and muffin are both food, and a man and woman are both people. Thus, there is need for the separation. Food may be what goes in one’s mouth, but words that reveal one’s true self are what come out. Food is not always what it appears to be. Works Cited Wilde, Oscar. “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Elements of Literature: Fiction, Poetry, Drama. Eds. Robert Scholes, et al. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2010. 1022-1065. Print.

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