Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 517

Luigi Pirandello had one philosophical tenet that he proffered throughout his several hundred novellas, novels, and plays: Life is without rational, logical meaning, and humans struggle vainly to impose such meaning on the irrational and capricious events of their destinies. Each in His Own Way, written at the height of his career, is a comic expression of that central theme, as well as of the incommunicability of the true inner self because that truth is perhaps not known even to the self.

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Diego Cinci, spokesman for Pirandello’s underlying polemic, declares that each person exists as an image created by others, that there are as many views of the self as there are viewers. Nothing within the person, neither the deepest affection nor the strongest loathing, remains constant. All of one’s ideas, beliefs, and judgments change in the restless turmoil of life, and only at rare moments of cataclysmic insight is one aware of one’s true feelings and motives. For the most part, passion dominates reason; each individual hides the truth from himself even more than he does from others, until at last he is forced to cry out as Delia does in her confusion: “What is truth? . . . I should like to see with my eyes, or hear with my ears, or feel with my fingers, one thing . . . just one thing . . . that is true . . . really true . . . in me!”

Pirandello’s view of personality as a great tangled massing of lie upon lie, of mask upon mask, points toward a confusion about reality with which all people struggle. It is a struggle in which all each person can do is to offer to others honest compassion and the wisdom to cover the terror of naked and destroying truth with the masking lies of love. Amelia Moreno and Baron Nuti have built for themselves images of fictitious reality as barriers to the unacceptable reality of their mutual love. Their real selves, struggling beneath, are hidden out of guilt by complex life—lies that they present to themselves and to the world as truth.

It is Diego who acts as the great unmasker throughout the play. He alone appreciates the bittersweet comedy of life, the absurd contradictions of the human experience—a basic theme upon which Pirandello built his entire canon. Diego alone realizes that only through laughter can human beings endure, and that this laughter must often be directed at the self. He alone realizes that as people move out from a core of circumstantial suffering—attempting to discover meaning and truth perhaps within the suffering itself—they discover instead the perverse comedy of deception upon deception, mask upon mask, reflected in the distorting mirror of the masks of others about them.

In Each in His Own Way, Pirandello proclaims that each person is many persons. Each is like a kaleidoscope, with a substantial self always in flux and ever appearing according to the particular perspective from which it is viewed. As for the others who view the person, it is their part always to mistake the apparent configuration before them as the reality of the person.

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