The Chairs Essay - Critical Evaluation

Eugene Ionesco

Critical Evaluation

In Eugène Ionesco’s plays, many ideas are presented very directly, through startling images that defy commonly accepted theatrical conventions. Setting, character, and story as they are usually understood are noticeably absent from The Chairs. The audience is asked to accept that the peculiar string of events it witnesses throughout the play is something that, presumably, has meaning.

Ionesco’s dramas are absurd. In the context of theater,“absurd” does not simply mean “silly” or “ridiculous.” Rather, absurdity refers to the perception that in the modern world, where people are cut off from their traditional ties, all actions become useless, senseless. The absurdity of the absurd play is a reflection of the absurdity of the world. The emphasis of many absurd plays is on the emotional content, or lack thereof, of the moment. Often, nothing appears to be occurring onstage, and characters seem shallow, puppetlike creatures, but amid the frightening lack of communication come waves of humor and terror. Rejecting the logic and reason of earlier writers, Ionesco offers an illogical and irrational drama that expresses the often mystifying feeling of senselessness that pervades the awareness of many modernists.

The Chairs very clearly concerns communication among human beings or perhaps the inevitable lack of communication. The Old Man, who spends his life on an isolated island, feels he must share the message of his life with others before he dies. He invites an audience of notables to hear what he has to tell them. Yet instead of experiencing the presence of other people, he and the Old Woman...

(The entire section is 671 words.)