In “Boule de Suif,” baskets of food represent a society’s finite resources and the subjective and often unfair way in which they are distributed. When the ten travelers make their way from Rouen to Tôtes, they are separated from ordinary civilization. This means that all the wealthy travelers do not have accesses to the resources they can usually count on, temporarily redistributing power only to those who have resources to share. On the first half of the journey, this is Miss Rousset. Although she had brought the basket of food for herself, Miss Rousset chooses to evenly distribute her food and drink among the travelers—despite their scornful attitude towards her—modeling an egalitarian ethic. On the second half of the journey, however, everyone has a basket of provisions besides Miss Rousset, none of them choose to share, leaving Miss Rousset hungry, humiliated, and upset. The food in the carriage symbolizes how money and other resources flow through a society; people without resources often live at the whims and pleasures of those who have the option to distribute what they have.
Basket of Food Quotes in Boule de Suif
[…] Loiseau with his eyes devoured the dish of chicken. He said: “Fortunately Madame had more precaution than we. There are some people who know how to think ahead always.”
She turned toward him, saying: “If you would like some of it, sir? It is hard to go without breakfast so long.”
He saluted her and replied: “Faith, I frankly cannot refuse; I can stand it no longer. Everything goes in time of war, does it not, Madame?”
They could not eat this girl’s provisions without speaking to her. And so they chatted, with reserve at first; then, as she carried herself well, with more abandon. The ladies De Breville and Carré-Lamadon, who were acquainted with the ins and outs of good-breeding, were gracious with a certain delicacy. The Countess, especially, showed that amiable condescension of very noble ladies who do not fear being spoiled by contact with anyone, and was charming. But the great Madame Loiseau, who had the soul of a plebian, remained crabbed, saying little and eating much.
No one looked at her or even thought of her. She felt herself drowned in the scorn of these honest scoundrels, who had first sacrificed her and then rejected her, like some improper or useless article. She thought of her great basket full of good things which they had greedily devoured…she felt ready to weep.