Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie uses almost literally the metaphorical relation of the desire for love (both sexual and familial) and the need for food. Benno’s parents’ lack of love for him causes him to seek consolation in sweets and family meals. Benno’s consequent weight gain, while targeting him for abuse, is successful in the sense that it makes his parents and others notice him. When Benno reaches sexual maturity his frustration increases, which causes him to eat even more. He comes finally to loathe his own flesh, realizing that his weight is a monument to his isolation, a sublimation of his longing for love and beauty. Benno’s displacement of desire onto food is so common that it approaches thematic universality, yet his case is so severe that it seems monstrous. The tension between sympathy and revulsion that Benno’s obesity evokes provides the primary source of the play’s thematic power.

Secondary themes include playwright Albert Innaurato’s grotesque treatments of family life, Benno’s love of beauty, and his homosexuality. Innaurato’s theatrical structure, with Benno absent from the flashback scenes, implies that Benno’s grotesque qualities are the products of a grotesque home environment. His parents fight constantly, never showing affection or concern for each other. His grandfather is clearly depraved, his loneliness and fear of death causing him to lose judgment. His mother’s disappointments and his...

(The entire section is 492 words.)