Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424

Illustration of PDF document

Download Andorra Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Hypocrisy

The banner of hypocrisy unfurls itself slowly throughout the course of Frisch's play. Most obviously, hypocrisy is evident in the townspeople, who begin the play portrayed as virtuous and pious yet begin to exhibit more and more of the vices that (ironically enough) they had ascribed to Andri and to the Jewish people in general. Prater the carpenter exhibits "Jewish" deception in the incident with the chair, while Fetri exhibits "Jewish" cowardliness for not standing up to his boss. The inn-keeper meanwhile exhibits "Jewish" spite in his falsification of evidence against Andri—close to the play's conclusion.

Hypocrisy is also observable in the character of Can the teacher, who—like the townspeople—started out with lofty aims; as a young teacher he sought to enlighten his students as well as educate them. Given his youthful obsessions with "The Truth," it is especially hypocritical that he then neglects to tell his son the truth of his parentage, even up until his death.

Humanity as Incapable of Change

The majority of Frisch's characters do not recover from the moral decline he sets them on from the play's opening scene. The refusal of the townspeople to admit any degree of guilt, even under occupation by "The Nation of Blacks," reflects Frisch's view that humanity's depravity is a failing that can never be redressed. Interestingly, the priest is the character who does see the error of his ways (and those of his society), with the implication being that a degree of spirituality is required to see beyond the cage of common humanity.

Some critics have seen in this play an allegory for the German people during the war. However, it is notable that Frisch, in his stage directions, gives clear instructions that uniforms and other props are to be non-specific to any nation or historical period. His intent seems to have been to convey a human—rather than a regional—failing.

Identity

This play portrays two contrary journeys toward identity. On the one hand, the townspeople slip further and further away from the identity they believe is their own: that of a close-knit and virtuous community. On the other hand, Andri proceeds (partially against his will and partially due to his desire for acceptance) toward the identity of "Jew" that the townspeople have foisted on him. The specter of his true identity hovers just out of his reach. Twice the priest tries to introduce him to it, but the long years of prejudice the young man has suffered makes it impossible for him to grasp it fully.

Themes and Meanings

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 411

Andorra is a play about prejudice in general and anti-Semitism in particular. Max Frisch depicts a seemingly stable, close-knit, idyllic community that gradually succumbs to a form of prejudice that ultimately destroys several of its members. Ironically, the Andorrans possess precisely those qualities that they ascribe to the Jews and thus to Andri: They themselves are shown to be greedy, ambitious, cowardly, and devoid of feelings. To make matters worse, some time after the tragedy, these individuals appear on the witness stand virtually unchanged. With the exception of the priest, they still fail to recognize their own roles in the tragic sequence of events and steadfastly refuse to accept any responsibility for Andri’s death. Judging from the persisting self-deception and hypocrisy, effectively symbolized in the recurring whitewashing of the walls of Andorra, the playwright seems to be rather skeptical about humankind’s ability to change.

The theme of prejudice is closely linked to another related theme that is of central importance in Frisch’s oeuvre: the individual’s search for identity. At first, Andri is an ordinary young man trying to fit into the society in which he lives. Continuously confronted with prejudicial remarks, he begins to conduct himself in accordance with his reputation. Ultimately, he forsakes his true identity and adopts that which is imposed upon him: He accepts himself as what he is not. The play’s tension and irony stem largely from this discrepancy between Andri’s “Jewishness” and his true identity.

Some view Andorra as a play about World War II, which would make it part of that large body of postwar German literature that tries to overcome the shame of the past. Others, depending on their nationality, view it either as a play about Switzerland and its alleged lack of critical self-reflection or as a play about fascist prewar Germany. Frisch has made it clear in the program notes, however, how he would like the audience to view Andorra: “The Andorra of the play has nothing to do with the actual small state of this name, nor does it stand for another actual small state; Andorra is the name of a model.” In keeping with this approach, the uniforms of the soldiers are not to resemble any historical uniforms. Frisch clearly wants his play to have wider implications. He does not depict behavior patterns that are restricted to any given nationality or epoch in particular; instead, he makes a statement about human nature in general.

Previous

Summary

Next

Characters