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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 145

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In the play, Alan Ayckbourn comments on the frailty of the human ego and the pressures of societal and economic standards on married couples. Each act is centered around a couple who must maintain appearances while hosting a party. Ayckbourn highlights both the private and public inadequacies of each individual as they pretend to have everything together while neglecting their mistakes and issues. Ironically, the reader is able to recognize more than the person is willing to admit to both themselves and their partner.

Ayckbourn believes that due to the rise of the middle class, there has been an inevitable obsession with gaining and maintaining status. The play reveals the effects of forsaking one's soul while pursuing any semblance of outward perfection. Essentially, Ayckbourn uses the play to reveal the intentional blindness of human error and the unhealthy yet habitual obsession with feeding one's ego.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

In Absurd Person Singular, Alan Ayckbourn analyzes the rise and fall of the middle classes, the precariousness of status within class, and the way in which that status is determined by economic and social behavior. The play is also an illustration of marital relations, their equally precarious state, and their ability to improve or worsen according to wealth and position. Each act presents a view of each couple’s relationship and personality; they are in turn hosts and visitors, and their behavior as one or the other highlights their private and social abilities or inadequacies. While it is easy to interpret the social veneer each character imposes by banal chatter or gushing enthusiasm, it is important to recognize how each of them is the victim of betrayal, usually and ironically by his or her own hand.

Ayckbourn peers into the essence of human egotism, allowing his characters to blunder repeatedly and to betray their weaknesses, all the time believing themselves to be socially adept and perfect as marital partners. In turn, the audience has its ego massaged by being permitted to perceive what a character cannot fathom about himself or herself. The petty self-importance of the upwardly mobile and the nouveau riche is lampooned, along with the meaninglessness of the whole class struggle and its obsessions with appearances.

Each couple represents a parody of success in a varying way. The Hopcrofts must appear successful; they care about their image, but they state their politics in a typically crude way. The Jacksons do not care so much; in fact, they are almost emotionally incapable of keeping up a vestige of respectability. The Brewster-Wrights have a natural flair for classiness, built in by upbringing, which the Hopcrofts will never attain, not having been born with any such cultural capital. A kind of dignity is maintained by the Brewster-Wrights, despite their paucity of warmth and emotion. Thus the facets of ingrained middle-class eccentricity are skillfully exposed in the juxtaposition. The play elicits a rather confusing mixture of emotions; it is at once tragic and comic. The farce is necessary to relieve the pain of the baring of souls, made more excruciating by the characters’ own ignorance of what they reveal.

Ayckbourn’s point is that the English preoccupation with social status is at best unnecessary and at worst pathetic. He is also at pains to reveal the erring presumption of individuals in a marriage of assuming that they always act impeccably; then, when they fail miserably, they cannot see why. Ayckbourn sees this blindness as typical of the human ego.