Themes and Meanings
Funnyhouse of a Negro is a one-act play that combines the playwright’s personal experience and larger social concerns through a deliberately nonrealistic, often dreamlike style of dramatic presentation. To a significant extent, the play uses devices that are expressionistic, that is, that depict the main character’s internal rather than external notions of reality. Much of what the audience and readers encounter is intended to depict what is going on inside Sarah’s torn and troubled mind. Thus, the images of Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Hapsburg as they appear at the beginning of the play are meant to reveal something about how Sarah feels about herself. Because both characters are represented as women with distinguished European titles who wear masks or makeup to hide their black identities, they seem to suggest that Sarah tries to use her knowledge of Western culture to cover up her African American ancestry.
The play also relies on some of the conventions of what has become known as the Theatre of the Absurd. The plot seeks to explore how certain situations feel rather than to tell a story. The importance of language is diminished, while spectacle and nonlinguistic sound take on a larger, highly symbolic meaning. Thus, the play appears to be fragmented and illogical, progressing in short scenes with irrational dialogue and bizarre visual effects. The often repetitive and nonsensical speeches by different characters make the audience...
(The entire section is 482 words.)