Thomas C. Foster’s main point in his second chapter (as seen written in bold) is that “whenever people eat together, it’s a communion.” Foster goes on to explain that not all communions are holy and that eating together is an “act of sharing and peace”. He states that writing an interesting meal scene is so difficult, there must be another reason behind it, almost always pertaining to the relationship of those eating together. Therefore, a good meal reflects or foreshadows good things to come and vice versa. He then includes a passage from James Joyce’s story “The Dead” – the most beautifully written meal scne I have ever read (so far) – and explains the different significances of the passage.
For some reason, throughout this whole chapter I couldn’t help but think of the meal Jean Valjean share with Bishop Myriel in Les Miserables. In the passage, Valjean shows up at Bishop Myriel’s home asking for a place to stay, and Myriel accepts, offers him a bed, and shares a meal with him – an act of sharing and peace. The Bishop also makes a point of saying, “This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours.”
After their meal, Valjean steals Myriel’s only treasures – his silver and two candlesticks. When caught with these items, two gaurds take him back to the Bishop and ask if his silver was stolen, or if he really did give it to Valjean as he previously stated. The Bishop then confirms Valjean’s lie to the guards and they release him. After this second ct of kindess, Myriel makes sure that Valjean uses the silver and candlesticks to turn his life around. in this way, the good meal shared earlier reflected the Lord’s forgiveness of Valjean’s past – which Valjean betrayed, only to be forgiven again, signifying a turning point in his life and in Victor Hugo’s novel. In this sense, Myriel’s gift of love and light in a time of hatred and darkness makes him the soul of Les Miserables, as Theresa Malcolm would say.
“Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good.”
In this particular scene, their meal really was akin to a holy communion, however, it is the meal that has most left an impression.