Themes and Meanings
Boesman and Lena has several important themes, one of which echoes the classical Greek saying that an unexamined life is not worth living. This statement is especially relevant to Boesman, who continually dismisses Lena’s questions regarding why their lives are as they are and how they came to their present condition. Boesman dismisses these questions angrily and derisively, showing his resolve not to examine his life too closely. He is determined throughout most of the play to accept without question their situation as dispossessed people. This determination is the source of his conflict with Lena. In opposition to Boesman, Lena wants to believe that their lives are not meaningless and isolated, but valuable and witnessed by others. This desire for a witness reveals Lena’s need for a human community outside of Boesman, who does not fulfill her need. It also explains Lena’s illusion of talking with the old African, although they do not speak the same language or understand each other. To Boesman, on the other hand, the man is merely an old Kaffir and he wishes to continue in isolation.
Boesman and Lena also displays, as Athol Fugard himself acknowledges, the influence of the French existentialist Albert Camus. Camus’s works deal with the precariousness of human existence, the apparent meaninglessness of life, and how people react to this threat of meaninglessness. These themes are all found in Boesman and Lena, in the opposing ways in which each...
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