Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco has a few themes, mainly examining the dynamics between people and psychology. The professor and the pupil represent archetypes—not specifically Jungian, but in the general definition of the term—in which the professor is a personification of authoritarianism, whilst the pupil represents a prey. The Lesson analyzes the psychological and social elements of a dominant-weak dynamic. The angrier and more aggressive the professor becomes, the further the pupil goes into a quiet and timid state.
Another theme is the elitist behavior of the intellectual. Upon meeting the pupil, the professor already assumes that the pupil is ignorant. The professor shows his intellectual prowess by dominating the pupil, which the latter cannot counteract. Ionesco used the character of the professor to criticize the intellectual elite of his day and show how it was the intellectual class that birthed authoritarian and totalitarian leaders.