The importance of food is underlined by Algernon “I refuse everything except food and drink at this present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy” in this extract Wilde chooses to mock the troubles of love and also to underline how despite feeling hurt Victorian values expect no emotion at all from men. Food also designates out the greedy and close minded views of the upper class.
Stage directions draw attention to this but also symbolise hypocritical ways the characters do it by seemingly creating a new problem rather than fixing old problems through the necessity of food. “(Takes muffins from Algernon)” the action of eating muffins is regard as redemption and repentance for sins by Cecily which ultimately leads to trivialisation. Penny Gay indicates the importance of actions with the quote “words are often less important than actions” which presumably is happening in the act and play throughout.
“It’s absurd I never go without my dinner” insisting the upper class have a strict set of norms to live by as Lady Bracknell remarks earlier about music. Algernon adds “of course music is a great difficulty you see if one plays good music people don’t listen and if one plays bad music people don’t talk” to criticize the values he adopts and follows so fondly while being arrogant and hypocritical as well.
Gwendolen tells Cecily, who has just offered her sugar and cake, that sugar is “not fashionable any more” and “Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays. ” Cecily responds by filling Gwendolen’s tea with sugar and her plate with cake to indicate upper class values aren’t accepted in the country, however Wilde implements the attitude that food in Victorian society very much appeals to fashion as the current trend rather than the taste of it.
Algernon is the focal point of the importance of food in the play to demonstrate how food must not only be desirable and tasteful but also fashionable and interesting; similarly Bracknell’s dinner parties entirely trivialise the purpose of entertainment and hospitality for the importance of gossip accusing everything in Victorian society of losing its true purposes and meaning e. g. marriage, food and religion. Jack reveals how its “ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case” to introduce the concept of privacy to the play.
Algernon’s arrogant reply indicates how the upper class assume one’s privacy isn’t important and is accessible to the rich “oh it is perfectly absurd to have a hard and fact rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t” implying the limitless lifestyle of the upper class. Patience is also trivialised “I am not in favour of long engagements they give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage “stressing how money is expected to buy anything immediately without difficulties.
Cecily and Gwendolen also apply their characters to this shallow approach to life through fictional writing claiming to own engagements due to the limited power of women in Victorian society. Jonathan Bate express the games comedies indulge in “Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social life” to highlight why character get tangled up in odd actions.
This further is highlighted when the pair forgive Algernon and Jack for their deceptive lies without any apologies as telling the truth is considered as a “painful enough position”. Although the female character may not necessary agree with values of Victorian society about money, marriage and deception their forced hold opinions which enable them to have a respectable position in the social order due to its ridiculous ideals.
Bracknell’s response to Jack’s accusations of Algernon “he is an Oxonian “shows how Wilde challenges the educated order due to limited access of education to only certain sectors of Victorian society highlighting key qualities of life such as privacy, gentlemanliness and moral character aren’t gained through education or social class but through other means. Wilde controversial reputation within society at the time for various scandals perhaps highlights why his play bombards the upper class values through satirical wit to expose them like his been exposed himself to the public through embarrassing satirical wit of trivialised values.
Wilde challenges Victorian values while trivialising serious issues through humour “to be comic the ending must forcefully call into question the issues of happiness and forever after” Christopher Fry symbolises Wilde’s satirization of Victorian values through comic epigrams to indicate irony of the audience ultimately laughing at themselves to connect the triviality of the play while also exploring serious issues consequently.