5 Answers | Add Yours
Dickens always included some very interesting meal scenes in his novels. Like in The Pickwick Papers, they were always sitting down to munch on some leg of lamb or potted salad or kidney pie. Dickens often used his meal times to characterize the affluence of the diners. Pickwick is always feasting on something delicious and rich, and this reveals him as a man of excess, one fond of indulgence. When he shared these meals in his travels with the people he encountered (or Snodgrass and Tupman), it was about communion, a gathering of like minds to celebrate their discoveries along their journey or to commiserate on the difficulties of their experiences.
Another important meal in a literary context is any of the Feasting scenes in The Lord of the Flies. Providing meat and food for the tribes in a powerful means of control for Jack over the other boys. By partaking in the feasts they share the experience of the hunt and in a "group mentality" share in the responsibility for other things that happen on the island, such as the killing of Simon.
I don't particularly agree with the premise of this chapter of How to Read Literature like a Professor, but in the spirit of literary discourse I'll offer one example of a meal in literature that can be read through a communion lense.
The meal shared in the opening chapter of All the King's Mencan be construed as a communion. This meal emphasizes the shared fate of each character present - Willie, Jack, Sugar-boy, Duffy, Lucy and Tom Stark. If we read this as a communion, we can extend the trope to include a suggestion of Willie's eventual martyrdom.
An example of a meal that is not a communion at all, but, if anything, the opposite, can be found in The Great Gatsby. When Nick visits Daisy and Tom and shares dinner with them (and Jordan Baker), the dynamic is not one of communion. The disfunction of the group (characterized by deception, prurient fascinations, gossip, and general falsness) is displayed. Nothing is shared collectively.
Not every meal is a communion.
A particularly symbolic meal in English literature is in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, in the extremely famous chapter entitled: "I Call Him Fiday". Robinson, of course, strongly objects to cannibalism. After he had rescued Friday from the savages that were on the point of killing and eating him, he saw that the place was strewn with human bones and so, bade Friday to gather those bones and skulls and built a great fire to burn them. On the following day, he took him to the woods to kill animals for him to "taste other flesh". It greatly puzzled Fiday to see that the kid and the parrot hunted and killed were skinned and boned and that the flesh would make "some very good broth". Robinson then remarked: "and after I had begun to eat some, I gave some to my man, who seemed very glad of it, and liked it very well."
Thanks that helped.
We’ve answered 318,984 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question