Algernon takes eating very seriously throughout ‘The importance of being earnest’. I believe this is done by the writer to not only show his character to be of comic type, but also to show his insecurities within the world he lives and his inability to function in a high society. In page 8 Algernon takes sandwiches that are intended for his guest, Lady Bracknell. In victorian times it would be greatly frowned upon to consume food that is laid out for your guests and Algernon is aware of his ungentlemanly actions. When his Aunt asks where the cucumber sandwiches are, Algernon pretends to be shocked by their absence ‘Good heavens! Lane! Why are their no cucumber sandwiches?’ This ability to lie with such impeccable composure suggests he is familiar with the act of covering up his food indulgences. Algernon is not only greedy but also selfish and does not like the idea of Jack eating bread and butter, an obvious act of hypocrisy ...view middle of the document...
We see examples of Algernon’s trivial personality throughout, a character thats most beloved item is food ‘the only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if shes pretty, and to someone else, if she is plain’ which leads me to make the assumption that food in some ways symbolises sexual repression. We see evidence of Jack worthing indulging in the bread and butter which was meant for his future wife, Gwendolyn. This could symbolise his sexual repression and lust for her. The way in which Algernon indulges in his cucumber sandwiches and scowls at Jack for indulging in his bread and butter in much the same fashion, almost mimics that of two men fighting over the affection of a woman. This would explain why their is so much reference to food throughout act 1, as another theme that we see throughout in abundance is marriage. The bickering also portrays the characters with feminine qualities, which brings me to my next point, role reversal.
Algernon is not only portrayed as a somewhat stooge throughout Act 1, he along with the protagonist, Jack worthing, possess feminine qualities for the time period. In Victorian times the males of their social class would be expected to provide for the women. For Algernon the case is quite the contrary to this, he is forced for financial reasons to cling to his aunt, Lady Bracknell. This causes a role reversal within the play and makes the two men have another level of comic appeal. Jack worthing is almost lady like in his quest for Gwendolyn's affection and Lady Bracknell's approval.
In conclusion I think that food has a much deeper implication into the play than such a trivial item would such be thought to have. Its implication into character analysis is not something to be overlooked and although evidently Algernon has the most direct connection, it can be linked to other characters within the play indirectly through Algernon's character relationships. The reason Algernon is portrayed to have such a strong, serious connection with food is because the way in which he behaves towards it is a perfect way to link and implicate his character traits in an extremely effective way.