The scene of Jesus and the apostles sharing their last meal together before Jesus’ crucifixion can be viewed as the men being unified for the last time. Food, meals, and the idea of communion bringing people together are some of the most widely recognizable motifs in works of literary merit. It is because of this biblical influence that a meal is considered to be such a significant thing and almost never occurs for no reason. When writing a meal scene the author is trying to convey a sense of unity between the characters involved. A meal or the act of breaking bread with another person symbolizes two people coming together, whether it be to resolve a conflict or simply as friends. Because the act of eating has become so ritualistic and personal, when two characters choose to do it together, it is always representative of something larger. Thomas C. Foster said that whenever two people eat together it is communion. It is not so much about the food itself, but the reason for the meeting, the character’s attitudes toward one another, and the overall tone once the meal has ended. A successful meal between two characters represents the strengthening of a relationship, while a failed one easily illustrates what many of theses character’s future meetings will look like. F. Scott Fitzgerald employs this tactic often in his novel, The Great Gatsby. When Nick first arrives at the Buchaanan’s house on that early summer afternoon, the audience is not yet aware of any unhappiness or discomfort within the household. That night when Nick, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan are at dinner, Tom’s mistress calls the house. Almost immediately the attitudes of all the characters change. As Tom gets up to take the call and Daisy excuses herself from the table, it is understood that dinner is over. In just one meal scene both the audience and Nick are given some insight into how their relationship has really been over the years. The overall tone of the dinner also foreshadows the tension and anger that is to come and shows the reader how disconnected all of the characters are from one another.
Other instances of authors utilizing this motif are:
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin- The dinner party in chapter 30 can be viewed as a recreation of the last supper.
- The Dead, James Joyce- Most of the story focuses on a dinner party. The isolated feeling described throughout the work matches the protagonist’s feeling about his life.
- The Odyssey, Homer- Food and hunger are used to represent a lack of discipline and submission to temptation.