One of the deadly sins, gluttony is an excess intake of food, alcohol, or drugs. Gluttony is destructive, because it holds its victims in the spell of sensorial pleasure. Sadly, this spell prevents one from reaching higher levels of meaning and purpose in life.
Eventually gluttony becomes addictive, leading to extreme declines in health, family life, work performance, and social efficacy. In the case of alcohol and drugs, gluttony leads to impoverishment, criminal behavior, and death.
One does not have to turn to fiction to probe the destructiveness of gluttony, because there are so many real-life tragedies that flood the media and touch the lives of the people around us. However, if literature is the route chosen for illustrations of this deadly sin, one will find ample examples of gluttony’s destructive qualities.
Gluttony Is Destructive in Itself
A classic example of gluttony is the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” character, Augustus Gloop. Augustus eats such an excess of chocolate that he stumbles upon a golden ticket which gets him a tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.
However, Augustus cannot even make it all the way through the tour. He falls into a chocolate river while attempting to imbibe its contents and is swept away by the current.
This example shows that even before leading to poor or criminal behavior gluttony acts as a distraction from a purposeful end.
Gluttony, a Sign of Other Vices
Gluttony is often associated with people who struggle with other vices. As is the case in The Hunger Games trilogy where the residents of the Capitol (the dystopian setting of the novel) are extremely vain, avaricious, and power hungry. Thus, it is no surprise that they are also gluttonous. In the scene below, protagonist, Katniss, describes the extravagance at a party in the Capitol while the people are starving in her home district.
Just then my prep team [Capitol residents] descends on us. They’re nearly incoherent between the alcohol they’ve consumed and their ecstacy at being at such a grand affair. “Why aren’t you eating?” Octavia asks. “I have been, but I can’t hold another bite.” I say. They all laugh as if that’s the silliest thing they’ve ever heard. “No one lets that stop them!” says Flavius. They lead us over to a table that holds tiny stemmed wine glasses filled with clear liquid. “Drink this!” Peeta picks one up to take a sip and they lose it. “Not here!” shriek Octavia. “You have to do it in there.” says Venia, pointing to the doors that lead to the toilets. “Or you’ll get it all over the floor!” Peeta looks at the glass again and puts it together. “You mean this will make me puke?” My prep team laughs hysterically. “Of course, so you can keep eating,” says Octavia. “I’ve been in there twice already. Everyone does it, or else how would you have any fun at a feast?” —The Hunger Games
Gluttony in Real Life
Gluttony’s effects are destructive to one’s self and to others. They weaken the will. When one is not in control of their own actions, then it leads one to an acute underliving of life.
An extreme real life and literary example of this is that of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith in Truman Capote’s, In Cold Blood. Before heading over to Clutter House to murder four people in their sleep, the murderers stop at a diner and order a steak dinner with an extragravant number of sides and dessert.
Getting Past Gluttony
Although all glutton cases of weak will might not be this extreme, they all must will to change to turn away from gluttony. If not, then the glutton condemns himself to further waste of life and destructiveness.
This act of the will stands at the foundation of curbing desires for overindulgence. One must replace the disordered desires with higher desires for contribution, love, and faith.
This is difficult indeed. Yet without this act of the will, there can be no relief from gluttony’s course of self-destruction. Though difficult, this act of the will is not impossible, and it can be strengthened and efficacious with the help of reinforcement, collective wisdom, and prayer.
This article, part of an eight-part series on the eight deadly sins*, first appeared on the Magis Center Blog. It has been republished here with permission.
*The Church Fathers often referred to the eight deadly sins—identifying vanity as a deadly sin and separating it from pride—though the Church eventually settled on seven.
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