Critical Context

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439

Some critics find Jean Genet’s works offensive in their inversion of good and evil and in their pessimistic view of the human condition; others applaud his literary and theatrical skills. His poems, novels, and plays explore similar themes: the isolation of the individual, the impossibility of knowing oneself or others, the transcendent nature of fantasy, the continuum of criminality and saintliness, the ambiguity of reality and illusion, the ultimate liberation of death. He attacks the traditional values of bourgeois morality; his characters are outcasts; his imagery is sensual and at times scatological; his style is theatrical.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Maids Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Genet’s five plays are linked in subject and theme. In The Maids and the prison drama Haute Surveillance (pr., pb. 1949; Deathwatch, 1954) both one-acts written in the late 1940’s, the central figures are trapped in unacceptable identities; they take refuge in fantasy and find freedom only in death. Le Balcon (pb. 1956; The Balcony, 1957) expands upon these themes. In an elaborate house of illusions, a brothel, clients act out their erotic fantasies, transforming their daily existence just as the maids transform theirs. Extravagant costumes emphasize the illusion; mirrors reflect the appearances. The play echoes The Maids in its exploration of fantasy and in its dramatic use of the trappings of the theater. Genet’s last two plays, Les Negres: Clownerie (pb. 1958; The Blacks: A Clown Show, 1960) and Les Paravents (pr., pb. 1961; The Screens, 1962), ostensibly move beyond interior concerns to the world of politics and social injustice. The themes, however, remain the same. The Blacks is a game, a performance by blacks for other blacks dressed and masked as whites; they are Genet’s usual outcasts, those who as nonparticipants in the activity of...

(The entire section contains 439 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Maids study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Maids content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Critical Evaluation