- Treats and threats: the boy who dared to ask for more
A boy, “desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery”, rises from the dining table. He fears that such an act might be an example of inconsiderate rudeness yet, he dares to utter probably the most famous sentence in the history of literature. ‘Please, sir, I want some more’, he says trembling to the master. The boy, of course, is Oliver Twist. He speaks in the name of hundreds of children living in the most unfavorable conditions. His literary father, Charles Dickens, gives grotesque depictions of some aspects of the Industrial Era and gives us insights into harshness of that world.
The bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons till they shone again; and when they had performed this operation (which never took very long, the spoons being nearly as large as the bowls), they would sit staring at the copper, with such eager eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was composed; employing themselves, meanwhile, in sucking their fingers most assiduously, with the view of catching up any stray splashes of gruel that might have been cast thereon.
- It’s always tea time!
Alice in Wonderland revolves around drinking, eating and partying. In chapter VII, Alice comes upon an outdoor tea party and decides to stay despite the protestations of her hosts.
“There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and the talking over its head… The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There’s plenty of room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.”
Later on, Alice learns about the unusual destiny of the March Hare, the Hatter and the Dormouse. Namely, the dreadfully savage Queen of Hearts commissioned an order according to which Time is eternally fixed for Alice’s hosts at six o’clock. Hence, `it’s always tea-time ‘ at their home. The punishment, coming from such a cruel monarch, is not so bad at all. Who wouldn’t enjoy endless supplies of teacakes?
- Painstaking conversation
The place was empty. “You’re wearing a cashmere sweater.” “Yes I am.” “It’s beige.” “Yes.” “And that’s your hand-beaded skirt.” “Yes it is.” “I’m noticing. How was the play?” “I left at intermission, didn’t l?” “What was it about and who was in it? I’m making conversation.”
Living in a fully digitalized world and surrounded by countless messaging systems, we forget the basics of interpersonal communication. In the lines quoted above, Eric Packer from Delillo’s Cosmopolis is desperately trying to make a connection with his estranged wife.
Their meal is as simple as their utterances. Thus, it becomes a symbol of the simplicity of the modern world. Yet, it is simplicity in which we cannot function properly, in which we are lost without proper gadgets.
Elise ordered a mixed green salad, if manageable, and a small bottle of mineral water. Not sparkling, please, but still. Eric said, “Give me the raw fish with mercury poisoning.”
to be continued….