Why is the play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco considered absurdist?

Eugene Ionesco's play Rhinoceros, written in 1959 and first produced in 1960, represents elements of absurdist drama such as nonsensical, cliché-ridden, and repetitive dialogue, lack of character motivation and development, and impossible and unlikely occurrences, which serve to raise fundamental questions about the irrational and contradictory nature of human existence.

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Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco begins with the scene of a rhinoceros charging through square of a small provincial town while two characters, Jean and Berenger, sartorial opposites, sit at a table in a cafe and chat about meaningless things. The appearance of the rhinoceros charging through the square—an event which is heard but not seen, aside from the cloud of dust the passing animal raises—causes quite a stir in the town, and people rush into the scene from all directions to comment on the remarkable occurrence.

As if the scene of the rhinoceros charging through the square of a provincial town wasn't absurd enough in its own right, later in the first act the scene is repeated, with the rhinoceros charging down the street again, this time from the opposite direction. Once again people rush into the scene to comment on the recurrence of the rhinoceros charging through the town square.

In his essay "The Theatre of the Absurd," first published in 1960, Martin Esslin (1918–2002) was the...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 7, 2020