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The beginning of this play establishes a (false) normalcy, a social norm from which the Absurd departs. The Smiths are a “typical” European couple, without guile, seemingly “at home” in a rational social world, where self-identity is not questioned, where one’s uniqueness is balanced with one’s non-special-ness, in fact the tool of a language course, which, in order to teach grammar, must invent a hypothetical speaker and listener, who take pronouns, genders, etc, only to show the variations of grammar. After the Smiths are established as the norm, Ionesco then undercuts their complacency by showing that it is language alone that bestows this uniqueness on us, and demonstrates that our identity rests on no more solid a base than the inventions of language. He is dramatizing the hollowness of our existence this way, which he then proliferates with the Martins, etc. Ionesco’s contributions to Absurdism, then, are the demystifying of language’s hold on “reality” and the negation of the concept of uniqueness. Like the characters here, all the plays in his canon use proliferation (of chairs, of rhinos, of kings, etc.) as a visual symbol of that same Absurdist principle: our uniqueness is an illusion propped up only by language.
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