Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 361

Georges Feydeau’s farce has become a theater classic because he deftly but affectionately captures the artifice of turn of the twentieth-century French society. The primary theme is that everyone is equally capable of hypocrisy, and closely related to this is the idea that no one is above blame. Among his...

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Georges Feydeau’s farce has become a theater classic because he deftly but affectionately captures the artifice of turn of the twentieth-century French society. The primary theme is that everyone is equally capable of hypocrisy, and closely related to this is the idea that no one is above blame. Among his characters, no one is entirely innocent in the constant double-dealings, but neither can anyone be considered evil. There is a slightly moralistic strain, however; an additional theme is that of responsibility, because on some level all those who misbehave must pay in some way. While Feydeau apparently posits two different levels of society, the respectable and the disreputable, it becomes evident that the two are different in degree rather than in kind.

Initially, it seems that Raymonde Chandibise is the injured party—an honest, serious woman—because her husband is almost certainly having an affair, and she is determined to find out the truth. But the audience soon learns that Raymonde, although she has not strayed yet, is planning to have an affair. Rather than having sex with the woman he was meeting in a hotel, her husband is actually experiencing impotence. Thus, the plot twist reveals the woman as the more reprehensible deceiver.

The reversals of conscience, morality, and honesty that abound throughout the play are manifested in the settings as well as figuring in the action and dialogue. Thus, not even the furniture is innocent, as shown by complex arrangements in the hotel where all the lovers meet: entire rooms revolve, and new beds replace the old ones with the lovers in them so they can avoid detection.

Although much of the miscommunication and outright falsity is played out in the rented rooms, the author does not present the respectable residential setting and the tawdry hotel as polar opposites. Rather, he shows that even in the most respectable home, people are completely capable of hatching wicked plots. Although Raymonde is ultimately guided by her better nature, it is her lack of trust in her husband that initiated all the miscommunication. To repair their marriage, she must in future adhere to the principles she had been prepared to abandon.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 252

A Flea in Her Ear contrasts the bourgeois world (or monde) of the Chandebise household and the nightmarish otherworld (or demimonde) of Hôtel Minet-Galant. This division underlines the divided nature of the play’s major characters. Below the elegant surfaces of their lives, the idle and shallow people of the belle époque—France at the beginning of the twentieth century—live in a degree of chaos. They constantly deceive and are deceived. The most innocent man, Chandebise, can be humiliated and driven to near insanity. The sexes do not understand each other; wives are shrews and husbands are impotent; sadists find their masochists; one man suffers from a speech impairment that would be pitiful if the audience were not laughing so hard at him. The basic instincts of these people are primarily the desires for self-gratification and self-preservation. Some want sex and revenge, while several want to preserve their honor. All want to avoid being shot.

However, there is little real evil here, and the play ends with the main characters reconciled and happy. Although this could be said of most comedies, here there is little sense that any particular actions or attitudes bring about the happy ending or that the ending represents the triumph of any particular set of values or virtues. In fact, it is not completely certain that farces have themes and meanings. Farcical characters may behave the way they do because they are situated in a farce rather than because their behavior reflects the irrational real world.

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