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True Meaning of Theater of the Absurd

Theater of the Absurd applies to a group of plays with a certain set of characteristics. These characteristics convey a sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an unexplainable feeling. These plays all have unusual actions and are missing a key element that would clearly define other pieces of literature. Language and actions differ from the usual and sometimes cannot be explained in the Theater of the Absurd. In the works of Albee and Ionesco language, behavior, and structure are abnormal if compared to other plays. Language is a key factor that is presented as a weak form of communication throughout “The Future is in Eggs,” “The Zoo Story,” “The American Dream,” and “The Leader.”

The Language as represented throughout the plays written by both Ionesco and Albee are very important elements throughout the plays. In “The Future is In Eggs,” by Ionesco, meaningless chatter between Roberta and Jacques breaks out during the run of the entire play.

Roberta: Puss… Puss….

Jacques: Puss…. Puss….

Roberta: Puss…. Puss….

Jacques: Puuuss….Puuuuuuuuss!

These incoherent slurs seem to be irrelevant and could easily be replaced with normal speech patterns. In “The American Dream,” Mommy and Daddy invite Mrs. Barker over for the evening. When Mrs. Barker makes her arrival and enters their house Mommy and Daddy at first seem to be normal and try and make Mrs. Barker comfortable, but as time goes by the conversation becomes more and more unusual.

Mommy: Are you comfortable? Won’t you take off your dress?

Mrs. Barker: Don’t mind if I do.

Mommy: There. You must feel a great deal more comfortable.

Mrs. Barker: Well, I certainly look a great deal more comfortable.

Daddy: I am going to blush and giggle.

Mommy: Daddy’s going to blush and giggle.

Mrs. Barker: Your lucky to have such a man for a husband.

Mommy: Oh, don’t I know it!

Daddy: I just blushed and giggled and went sticky wet.

The seemingly meaningless speech presented in these plays are represented in what one individual of different form might interpret the human speech pattern to be in that of Mommy and Daddy in “The American Dream.”

The absence of true character development is one of the primary elements of theater of the Absurd; there are no real characters. In their place are one dimensional characters who are representative of a particular aspect of society or non-dimensional characters whose absence of development is in itself symbolic of the indecipherable cosmos that the theater of the Absurd is trying to depict. The plays of Ionesco and Albee are filled with such character types. In Ionesco’s “The Future is in Eggs,” Father Jacques tells Jacques, “Here comes your grandfather, fit as a fiddle, to tell you himself how he met his death” (130). Grandfather Jacques is not a ghost. He is dead and mounted in a picture frame; yet he is “fit as a fiddle,” and proceeds to climb out of the picture to explain his death. In Albee’s “The American Dream,” Mommy and Daddy at first give the appearance of being really albeit somewhat boring characters. However, the audience learns from Grandma that Mommy and Daddy are anything but traditional parents:

Grandma: ….it turned out it only had eyes for its Daddy.

Mrs. Barker: For its Daddy! Why, any self-respecting woman would have gouged those eyes right out of its head.

Grandma: Well, she did. That’s exactly what she did. But then, it kept its nose up in the air.

Mrs. Barker: Uggh! How disgusting!

Grandma: That’s what they thought. But then, it began to develop an interest in its you-know-what.

Mrs. Barker: In its you-know-what! Well! I hope they cut its hands off at the wrists!

Grandma: Well yes they did eventually. But first, they cut off its you-know-what.

The audience learns that Mommy and Daddy proceed to cut off the feet of their “bumble of joy,” remove its spine, and lop off its head. While their names may be representative of all mothers and fathers, Mommy and Daddy are so far form the normal parent, they are not even real, much less symbols of all parents.

Structure in Theater of Absurd is either circular meaning that the ending of the play is the same as where it began, and therefore nothing being accomplished, or growing meaning that something is being accomplished or that the audience speculates the ending of what has just happened. “The Zoo Story,” is based on a growing structure. In the beginning of the play you have learned that Jerry has gone to the zoo. The play builds up to find what Jerry has done at the zoo and when that point comes there is a high point of action and suspense. “The Leader,” is based on a circular structure because the end is at the same point in which the play has started. The play could go on forever and have no true ending. As the Announcer calls play by play what the leader is doing, it will be hoped that the leader is seen, but in actuality nothing has been accomplished and it starts again from the beginning

The Theater of the Absurd exemplifies the mystery and unusual happenings in life. Although some things seem to happen for a reason if examined closely there is a meaning and something with a greater importance is being hidden beneath the surface. When something is spoken it means nothing, but rather for conversation, it is just as Jacques and Roberta confessing their love and feelings for each other with whimpers and cries. Life can either take two paths a circular path which in nothing is accomplished but rather reviewed, or growing path in which life is for a purpose and something is done.

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