A central purpose of the scene between Algernon and Lane is to lay the foundation for the joke about the cucumber sandwiches, an incident that marks the first appearance of food as a source of conflict as well as a substitute for other appetites. Algernon has ordered some cucumber sandwiches especially for Lady Bracknell, but during the scene with Lane, he eats all the sandwiches himself. In this particular scene, food substitutes for the idea of sex. Again we see the importance of manners here as the link is not directly confirmed, due to the timing being inappropriate or due to some other reason. Algernon does not want to exhibit such uncouthness in someone else's presence since it might be considered rude, leaving the audience to speculate, giving the whole ordeal it's comedic value. Algernon’s insatiable appetite, his preoccupation with food, and his habit of wantonly indulging himself politely suggest other forms of voraciousness and wanton self-indulgence. This idea becomes apparent in the early exchange between Algernon and Jack over the question of whether Jack should eat cucumber sandwiches or bread and butter. Here, Algernon interprets eating as a form of social, even sexual, presumption. Algernon can eat the cucumber sandwiches because he’s Lady Bracknell’s blood relation, but Jack, who hardly knows Lady Bracknell, should stay away from them. Again we see no explicit portrayal of this, due to the emphasis on good manners and the lewdness of the subject itself. When Jack demonstrates too much enthusiasm for the bread and butter, Algernon reproaches him for behaving as though he were “married to [Gwendolen] already,” as though he had touched her in an aggressive manner.
Joe Walker - English - 08/10/13 - Sorry for it being so short, done late at night.