Is The Balcony a critique of the modern state?

Quick answer:

The Balcony offers a critique of the modern state as an instrument of oppression that derives power from subjugating its citizens. Securing and maintaining the power depends on the continuous presentation of false impressions from which the citizens derive an illusion of freedom.

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Jean Genet’s play offers a scathing critique of the modern state as a tool of severe oppression. While Genet’s critical stance is especially relevant to dictatorships or totalitarian states, The Balcony is an indictment of the fundamental concept of the state. As an abstract force, the state gains power from imposing its domination on its citizens. Although a nation’s people may believe that their consent is the basis of that power, this belief is an illusion. The state supports that illusion by continuously presenting carefully crafted untruths and false images. With no alternative vision before them, the citizens are convinced by this endlessly reflected series of images: they live in a hall of mirrors.

Genet presents a series of vignettes that feature representative of the state. For his purposes, church and state are inseparable so these representatives include the Bishop along with the Queen, General, and Judge. As these leaders are aware of the falsity of the claims they promote, one of their primary shared qualities is hypocrisy. Ordinary people are not immune from this promotion of lies. Because the state has total power, resistance may only be temporary. Genet portrays rebels, such as Roger, as equally hypocritical. Rather than changing the system, what they actually desire is the power that state leaders possess. This is finally demonstrated by Roger’s assumption of the role of Chief of Police.

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