Is "Picnic on the Battlefield" written by Fernanado Arrabal an Absurd Play?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The play "Picnic on the Battlefield" also known as "Pique-nique en campagne" is indeed a representative of the theater of the absurd because it includes two of the staple themes of this genre which are:

  • The combination of tragedy and comedy (which is also found, for example, in Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot".)
  • The topic of life as a meaningless journey.
  • The inevitability of feelings of loss, purposelessness, and bewilderment.
  • The nonsense of reality; disjointed, meaningless.

In this particular play, life is questioned from the perspective of War. The theme of war is questioned, in turn, for its lack of real common sense. What does war achieve in the end, and is it worth risking one's life for this purpose? War is a matter of philosophical belief.

However, it is the treatment of this topic what further qualifies the play as an absurd one. Here we have a soldier getting ready to engage in a battle during the War, and suddenly here come his parents to give him a surprise visit and a picnic.

As is this were not absurd enough, the picnic actually takes place and with as much neutrality as if bombs were not exploding in the distance, or as if they were not actually inside a ring of fire- and they indeed were. Hence, we see how Arrabal is mixing the horror of war with the idyllic nature of a comfortable and cozy family visit.

As tragedy is sure to occur, the play continuously shifts in mood and atmosphere, creating a certain chaos which also makes the play distinguish itself from the traditional plot. The theater of the absurd is characterized for its separation from traditionalism.

Therefore, in conclusion, the themes it touches, the way the dramatist treats the themes, the absurdity of the situation, the satirical and sad mix of emotions, and the philosophical questions of life are all included in "Picnic on the Battlefield", making it a representative of the genre of the absurd.

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