What does Jean's transformation signify in Eugene Ionesco's play Rhinoceros?

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In Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, Jean's transformation into the title animal is somewhat surprising to the audience and to Berenger, but it also shows us something important about Jean's character. Let's look at this in more depth.

Jean seems like a straight-laced sort of fellow. He dresses well, is educated,...

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In Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, Jean's transformation into the title animal is somewhat surprising to the audience and to Berenger, but it also shows us something important about Jean's character. Let's look at this in more depth.

Jean seems like a straight-laced sort of fellow. He dresses well, is educated, minds his manners, and generally conforms to the expectations of society. What's more, he is always harping at his friend Berenger to stop being so disheveled and careless and to behave better in the world. Jean seems like that last person who would ever turn into a rampaging rhinoceros.

But there is more to Jean than meets the eye, and we come to realize that deep down, under that button-down shirt and model-citizen attitude, Jean wants power. He wants to be in control. He wants to rise up in society so that he can take charge. He wants things his way.

So perhaps it is not so surprising that Jean turns into a rhinoceros and vows to trample Berenger or anyone else that would dare to get in his way. As a rhino, he will have power indeed, and his transformation (the only one we see happen on stage) actually shows us what Jean is truly like. Appearances can be deceiving.

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