The Madwoman of Chaillot

by Jean Giraudoux

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What is the ultimate purpose of satire in The Madwoman of Chaillot?

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A satire is a type of work where the author makes his or her audience laugh at a person or a particular group of people by deliberately exaggerating qualities or characteristics that will paint a negative picture.

In this play (which was originally a film), large corporate business and politics is what is satirised. The political cynicism within the play is developed through the character of the oil prospector who is able to taste oil in tap water and declares Paris to be a goldmine waiting to be tapped. Corporate officers then jump on board, determined to find this oil sea, even if it destroys Paris itself so it can finance the war. They are of course, prevented from doing so by the "madwoman" herself - in fact, a member of the upper class whose land is due to be drilled to find this oil, and her cohorts, who humorously and with much slapstick comedy, prevent their ambitions becoming realised. The madwoman and her group represent the free spirits of Paris, who oppose the greedy politicians and contractors who are ignoring concepts such as beauty, truth and humanity in the process.

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