Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 549

The Bald Soprano has been often said to deal with the tragedy of language. Indeed, the disintegration of language is one of the main themes of this play. The Bald Soprano, however, is above all a parody of the bourgeoisie: not of the English bourgeoisie, but of a universal bourgeoisie which, according to Eugène Ionesco, has become dehumanized and spiritually empty, living by fixed ideas conveyed in ready-made expressions. The utility of language is then but one symptom or aspect of this dehumanization. The language of the Smiths and Martins is indeed fossilized, filled with slogans and commonplace expressions. The more they try to talk to one another, the less they communicate and the more language disarticulates itself: Mechanical phrases lead to nonsensical sentences, which give way to meaningless words, which in turn are soon reduced to chaotic sounds. At the end, these characters, filled with anguish and thoroughly frustrated by their inability to communicate rather than simply chatter, permit language to explode and are reduced to a level of subhumanity. What Ionesco depicts, then, is the tragedy of human communication.

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The Bobby Watson episode introduces another important theme, closely linked to noncommunication: human interchangeability. According to Ionesco, the Smiths and the Martins are unable to communicate because, like the petite bourgeoisie they represent, they are devoid of spirituality; they have forgotten how to think and how to be. They can, therefore, become anyone. The proliferation of the Bobby Watsons suggests the interchangeability of people who become totally absorbed in their social context and eventually, having no distinctiveness, become indistinguishable from it and from those occupying it. The Watsons are not the only ones who are indistinct and thus easily duplicable. There is very little to distinguish the Smiths from the Martins; thus the end of the play exactly repeats the beginning, with the Martins having replaced the Smiths.

Individuals, then, are incapable of making real contact with other human beings; they are basically condemned to isolation. Lacking in inner life, they are unable to engage in any meaningful relationship. Even love and marriage cannot relieve this metaphysical solitude. This point is made patently clear in the famous scene of recognition that occurs between Mr. and Mrs. Martin. This scene elicits laughter because of its exaggerations and burlesque elements. It is a nervous laughter, however, because mixed with it is the uncomfortable sensation that springs from witnessing the domestic tragedy of two individuals who are forever losing each other, never really communicating, never really knowing each other. Though not real in temporal and physical terms, the reality of their psychological and moral separation is undeniable.

Another target of Ionesco’s ridicule is man’s faith in the long-accepted law of causality, the notion that a given cause will always produce the anticipated result. The episode of the doorbell clearly demonstrates Ionesco’s disdain for causality and the ways in which human beings attempt to make sense of common occurrences. Ionesco seems to be saying that it is absurd to expect causality to illuminate the major problems and mysteries of life when it cannot even make sense out of daily phenomena. This statement underlines the overall message of the play, that reason, logic, and rational principles of discourse are essentially inadequate to explain or convey matters of human transcendence.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1292

Absurdist themes are pervasive in The Bald Soprano . In fact, the work is often critically mined to illustrate absurdist ideas and motifs. Chief among them in Ionesco's play is the...

(The entire section contains 1841 words.)

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