Why does the author use the student/professor relationship to express his central idea in The Lesson?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like much with Ionesco work, there is a purpose and a statement seeking to be made with everything within it.  If the traditional teacher/ student relationship is considered, one sees that the former is designed to instruct and enlighten the latter.  The student seeks out their teacher, their guru, to better understand aspects of themselves and their reality.  The teacher instructs based on the needs of the student and enables them to achieve their maximum capacity for intellectual and spiritual greatness.  This is inverted in Ionesco's play.  The teacher starts out meek and demure, yet as the play progresses, education becomes a form of control and domination.  The education process is one of repression, as the teacher's authoritarian structure seeks to crush the will of the student.  The student proves to be a better teacher in seeking to explore areas of doubt and uncertainty in the face of an authority structure that seeks to control and not educate.  In this light, the student/ teacher relationship is used to reflect how inverted social values and expectations are and how much of a change is needed in how both approach one another.  The teacher can only accomplish his lesson by killing his student, something that has happened quite a bit.  In using this relationship to bring to light the dangers of a setting where there is repression instead of articulation, Ionesco brings out a situation that is present in the status quo and one that is in need of change.  It is not surprising that the lesson on geographical acquisition is based on Hitler and the maid is wearing a Swastika- like symbol on her arm as she disposes the body.

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