Influence of Existentialism on Theatre of Absurd Essay

Influence of Existentialism on Theatre of Absurd Essay.

The term “Theatre of the Absurd” comes from literary critic Martin Esslin’s book The Theatre of the Absurd, published in 1961. In this book, he examined the works of a number of European playwrights of in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. According to him, these playwrights gave dramatic articulation to Albert Camus’s philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. He named four playwrights as the pioneers of this surge of absurdness in theatre- Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Genet.

He added Harold Pinter to this list in the later editions of his book.

Theatre of the absurd was initially Avant garde, i. e.experimental theatre. It is said to have borrowed from a no. of artistic movements, Surrealism, its precursor Dadaism and Shakespeare’s tragic comedy to name a few. In most absurd plays, the content is tragic but the treatment is comic. The dialogues between the characters are funny on the surface level they indicate deep-seated fear and psychological disturbance.

Hamlet’s real or feigned madness, his dilemma and unexplained inaction and his tortured self-critical soliloquies show early signs of absurdum. Tom Stoppard wrote the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the two minor characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

It shows influences of the most celebrated absurdist work, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett where again the characters are in pairs. To emphasise the tragic-comedy element of absurd theatre, Esslin emulates famous comedians like Charlie Chaplin (his work The Great Dictator is about Hitler and the holocaust), Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers. If we have to take a slightly modern example, we could say the popular cartoon series Tom and Jerry that chronicles the encounters of greedy and dim-witted cat, Tom and a tiny and smart mouse, Jerry is absurd tragic comedy.

It contains visuals of exceeding violence where Tom vacillates between being flattened like a plate and at times reddening to vermillion instead of his grey colour but the absurd part is that we laugh at it. Lewis Carroll’s linguistic nonsense contributed to the absurdist mistrust of language as a means of communication. Strindberg’s “dream plays” had an element of surrealism in them that can be considered as a precursor to absurd works. Herrik Ibsen was considered as a predominantly realist and satirist but he too indulged into absurdum.

Antonin Artaud’s concept of “theatre of cruelty” expressed in the book Theatre and its Double (1938) was a definite impetus to absurd drama. Artaud propagated the use of “cruelty”, meaning violent, physical determination to shatter the facade of false reality around us. Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is an example of Americanisation of absurd theatre. Relationship with Existentialism Existentialism was a very popular philosophy in the Paris circles during the 1930s to the 1950s and thus inspired the rise of theatre of the absurd.

However, the two terms cannot be used interchangeable because the existentialists were a very loosely held group of writers and philosophers with little common consent on any subject. Theatre of the absurd associates itself most closely with the kind existentialism that Camus propounded though it some of the plays bear resemblance to other brands of the philosophy. Existentialism is a term applied to the works of various nineteenth and twentieth century writers and philosophers who chose to write on the subject of human existence in the modern world, which according to them was confusing and essentially meaningless.

The basic tenet of existential thought is a belief that all our efforts end in “nothingness” and therefore there is no point in striving to lead a better life. This implies that there need not be any moral judgements passed on people and their actions because eventually it all ends in nothingness. Thus, crime is looked upon with an amoral perspective and justice with indifference by existentialists. In Albert Camus’s novel, The Outsider, the protagonist Meursault has committed murder but the court and the jury try him for his lack of emotion. He fails to show any regret for his crime and states that he is more annoyed

with himself for committing murder than repentant. The lack of public display of grief on his mother’s death is also held as evidence against him. So he is guillotined for not mourning his mother’s death instead of the murder. This kind of dispassionate view of life, death and the concept of justice is characteristic of existentialism. The forerunners of existentialism in the nineteenth century were philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche and authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka who described existential themes in their literary works.

Nietzsche treated life and death with the same callousness in his philosophical manifesto, Beyond Good and Evil. He says that most people don’t have the will to live therefore how does it matter if the powerful exterminate them to gain more power because in the end everything comes to nothing, so the concepts of good and evil are no longer valid. Hitler based his theory for the exterminating the Jews on a misinterpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Another defining element of existential thought was the assertion of human will.

Here it would be prudent to note that the so called “existentialists” differed widely with each other on the dogmatic level. Camus did not even wish to be classified as an existentialist. Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosophical spokesperson of existentialism supported suicide in this book, Being and Nothingness on the pretext that it is the only way to assert human will. He believed that human beings are geworfenheit i. e. “thrown into being” and had no control or opportunity to assert their individuality. Humans merely exist and are condemned to live and therefore the only way to assert your will is to end your existence.

Camus and many of the absurdist writers did not agree with Sartre brand of fatalism. Camus believed that once man accepts, that life is basically absurd and meaningless, there is no need for self emulation. In his essay Myth of Sisyphus, which lays the foundation of absurd drama, Camus compares the man’s condition with the predicament of the Greek hero Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a mythological character belonging to the ancient Greek civilisation, which is condemned by the gods to continue performing the same meaning less task of rolling a stone up the mountain only to see it roll down again.

Camus’s answer to the meaninglessness of life is “revolt”. According to him, we must keep struggling with this absurdity of life. Thus, Camus says, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy. ” Camus also wrote an essay called L’Homme revolte i. e. The Rebel that was published as a book. It chronicles the history of revolution and revolt in the Western European civilisation. He draws references from diverse authors and poets like Dostoevsky, Hegel (political theoritian), Charles Baudelaire (controversial French poet) and various others.

He uses an integrated amalgam of their works to draw out certain facts about revolution, its nature, its causes and effects. The most basic point of existential influence on theatre of the absurd is the concept of absurdity itself. It is not as if absurdity did not exist before the existentialists. Life was always absurd. In the Introduction to this paper the root of absurdity have been traced all the way back to Shakespeare and can be possible traced further back into literary tradition.

The Second World War brought this absurdity out in the public sphere, existentialism gave voice to the idea and absurd theatre gave it an artistic interpretation. Absurdity comes from the existential concept of nothingness, which is the same thing as the notion of meaninglessness. Both existentialism and theatre of absurd are based on the constant assumption that life is basically meaningless. That is why the absurd plays are described as “a play where nothing happens”. This is because the absurdist dramatists like Beckett believed that “change is only an illusion”.

If everything is to eventually end in nothingness then what is the relevance of change. In Waiting for Godot, both the protagonists wait for Mr Godot but in the heart of their hearts they don’t want him to come because then they won’t have anything to look forward to. It would kill hope for change. Idea behind the plot is that we only hope for change but do not really want change thus change is impossible and perhaps irrelevant because even change is meaningless like the rest of life’s experiences.

The other point of dissent among absurdists is the assertion of free will, which is very important for all existentialists and some absurd dramatists. Genet mostly echoes Sartre’s point of view that human will cannot be exercised except for suicide. Beckett makes a mockery of this view in Waiting for Godot. He portrays that human beings are incapable of exercising free will even in choosing their end. The two characters contemplate suicide as an option but are scared to try it because they fear the possibility that one of them will die and the other would have to be alone.

Harold Pinter in this regard adheres more to Camus’s idea of constant revolt with meaninglessness of life. In his play, The Birthday Party the character Petey says, “Stan, don’t let them tell you what to do! “. Pinter proclaimed that this was the most important line he ever wrote. It is symbolic of that undying spirit of revolt like Sisyphus. Camus’s other non-fiction work, The Rebel also supports his idea of revolt. In this essay, Camus says that revolt and then revolution arise out of discontent and a desire for justice. However, being an existentialist he makes it very clear that “justice” is an ambiguous term.

“Justice” in this context is dissatisfaction with the existing requisites of justice at a given time. The idea that he explores in this essay is that when a revolution is successful it becomes a tyranny. The new order is often more oppressive that the one it replaces. This is with special reference to the French revolution which became a blood bath but also holds true in case of Cuba, Russia and various others. Idealism in that way is very dangerous because to enforce ideals of utopia, the perpetrators justice the use of violence. But revolution is the single biggest force in shaping the history of mankind.

Camus believes that revolution is a necessary evil. Even if change is an illusion it helps human beings contend with the meaninglessness of life by providing a cause. Conclusion We may conclude that Camus has a very dispassionate attitude towards “change” though he deems it unavoidable and this is also true of Pinter. In most of Pinter’s plays there is a change in the situation at the end though it may not be overt. In his play, Homecoming, the wife decides to stay back to take care of her husband’s father and brothers as part whore part mother. There is an intrusion into a completely male household by the coming of a woman.

It disturbs the status quo but the conflict is resolved and the change is accepted. In The Birthday Party, again Meg does not know that her two boarders have probably taken Stan away but her husband Petey is aware of it. There is a change in Stan, he becomes a vegetable by the end of the play, who can neither think nor respond. Whether is desirable or not is debatable but there is change nevertheless. This shows that though fleeting and imaginary it helps us deal with life’s confusion. INFLUENCE OF EXISTENTIALISM ON THEATRE OF ABSURD PAPER 1. 2 SEMESTER 2 FERGUSSON COLLEGE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT By ANWESHA BARARI ROLL NO. -208.

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Influence of Existentialism on Theatre of Absurd Essay

The Adulterous Woman Essay

The Adulterous Woman Essay.

Introduction “Existentialism is the title of a set of philosophies that emphasizes the existence of the human being, the lack of meaning and purpose in life, and the solitude of human existence. ” (Academic Resources Center Inc. 2007) According to research what I think is: in the philosophy existentialism, its trunk is discussed; there are two kind of life model, one is for their own lives without understanding and ignorance gives up the responsibility of the life, and another one is awakening about how they should do for the meaning of life.

For the first life to the awareness of the meaning of the life is, that is a philosophy of the center point. No meaningful life, even still alive, these are nothing to worthwhile before. In the story The Adulterous Woman, also exposited the philosophy of existentialism’s significant. When person look back their own life before, after understand the life’s emptiness and absurd, responsible their own re-chose a meaningful and humane life, this kind of life is existentialism philosophy are pursue by the real presence.

But when people face to their own life choices, they need courage’s cultivate, because of their choice of life is only for their own responsibility, therefore it has the pressure. Sometimes this kind of pressure will led some people to flee, and would prefer to choose muddle along secular life. Because they are worry about their choice if they fail on their own choice and need to bear the tragic consequences. But the existentialist choose a kind of life which with courage, so that they could become true existence. Albert Camus Albert Camus, he was born in Algeria, in 1913.

He is one the most famous French novelist, play writer, essayist, and journalist. Many people him as an Existentialist, but he himself preferred to known him as a thinker and a man, rather than be known as member of school or ideology. He likes people over ideas. In 1945, during an interview, he rejected any kind of ideological associations. He and Sartre always were surprised that why their names linked to that. According to Atheism. free (2003), “Albert Camus worked out an existentialist philosophy of absurdity, resulting from the report of the absence of God and of a sense of life.

” Actually for Camus, awakening this kind of nonsense it s regarded as conquer of the clearness, and that allows bettering understand existence is by living in the reality and victory one’s freedom. Man can go beyond this kind of nonsense by against his situation and injustice. Camus spread his philosophy thinks and ideas through adapting the form to meaning. In order to expression for his own doubts and his ideas, he likes to use symbolic meaning of novels and theater plays to express his ideas and doubts.

Exile and the Kingdom, this book is a “collection of six unusual, strange-ending stories will probably be of interest to a wide range of short story fans. Sometimes seemingly vague and symbolic (and with odd titles and endings), they are thoroughly enjoyable and readable. Though similar in complexity, subject matter and settings vary greatly: a woman joins her fabric-selling husband on a business trip, a detangled former missionary awaits his replacement, barrel makers strike, a prisoner is foisted on a schoolmaster, an artist works amidst ever-changing chaos, and an engineer visits inhabitants near the site of a future dam.

”(Oak Harbor, 2007) Exile and the Kingdom, I think this is a strange, excellent and brief book. Actually there are also other strange stories: like Haruki Murakami’s Sleeping Woman, Blind Willow, etc. The book Exile and the Kingdom was published in 1957, the six stories which are: The Renegade, The silent Men, The Guest, The Adulterous Woman, Jonas or the Artist at work, The Growing Stone. In 1957, Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature, at that time he was second youngest person who recipient the Nobel Prize.

After three years, he was passed away in an automobile accident in 1960. (Source: Wikipedia, 2007) Brief summary The short story The Adulterous Woman describes one couple ‘ Marcel and Janine, they have been married for 25 years. Marcel is a silk business man, he ask Janine come with he for the business trip which is going to Arab town. Actually Janine does not like to go with Marcel, but eventually, course of Marcel insists her, reluctantly she decided to give her husband accompany.

The trip was not met her expectation, she was stuck in the bus when going through the desert with very strong sand whipping the windows and also could not see the out side landscape. The only thing which made her happy that the second time when she went to the fort by herself. In fort she experienced the mystical union of the sky and also the stars, at the end she returned to the hotel with a new awareness. Plot The story starts with the couple ‘ Marcel and Janine, there are on a business trip which they are going to Arab town for silk business.

From the beginning of the story we can see that Marcel and Janine have a strained relationship between each other. In Janine’s mind she describe her husband has a negative image who she feels stagnant and always business with his work, having waived the ambitions and passions compare to when they met. Janine looks herself still a very attractive woman although she already in a mature way and also remembers her adolescence. The raising action of the story starts from a French soldier starts to looking at Janine.

He seems to interest about Janine, and try to let Janine noticed about that and also when Janine starts to cough he offers Janine a lozenge. Janine was happy and welcomes the French soldier’s attention, in here all of these action were reinforces her opinion about she still can be very attractive to men. But she feels depressed because later on there is noting happened. The climax of the story which is Marcel and Janine decide to go to visit a fort. When they were at the fort, Janine was so much excited and feels inspired by the experience from the view. At the fort she feels she is free, and existence.

Nevertheless, Marcel was without any emotion, we can say that he is kind of totally unmoved. After a while he convinces Janine that they should go back to hotel, and also the weather was kind cold. After come back to the hotel, Marcel was falling asleep, but Janine could not sleep, she was lay on the bed and thinking about she does not love Marcel, and even Marcel does not love her, he just needs her and that she needs that needs. After think about for a long time Janine decided to go out the room during the night, and after that she came back to the fort again.

This time she was there alone, and she feels much more excitement and freedom compare to early when they were visited fort together. Starting from here the description of the story becomes more dramatic and also sensual as Janine feeling charged about her life when she runs around the fort. And then lastly, she was lying beneath the stars. The ending of the story is when Janine came back to the room; Marcel was sleeping, but after a few second he was awoke and he saw Janine was crying. But Janine said it’s nothing and she did not tell her husband that she went to the fort.

Setting and Time The story is set in the Algeria, but in the story the Algerians play very less significant in the story. People surround Marcel and Janine most of them are Arab. The weather was very cold, from the beginning to the story we can know that, and also have very strong sand wind. Especial from “the fly shuddered with each gust of sandy wind that scratch against the windows”. When they arrive to the hotel, the hotel was also very cold, with very poor condition. During the time I am reading the story I also have very cold feelings.

The story is by using the third person’s perception to talk about the Janine’s life. Janine and Marcel live in the Algeria very isolated, as I mention before none of them speak the native Arabic. Characters In the story Janine is protagonist; she is kind one person who is very lonely, not often speak, as well as very isolate. Before had experience at the fort, she was living very boring life, no any excitement. But after went to the fort, her life changed, she realizes that her life is renewed.

From the story we can see that actually Janine revolt about her husband, because Marcel is a kind of person who is inertness, lack of vitality and also a bit advancing age. Nevertheless, Janine was attracted by concept of the power and primal vigor. Especial when she realizes that French soldier was look at her and also at the fort she was reinvigorate with a sense of youth. Marcel is antagonist in the story, especial we can see from he insists Janine joins the business trip, even she does not like to go with him, but eventually she reluctantly decided to go with him.

He is very inertness person, lack of vitality and advancing age. And from the way he talks to the Arab, I think he distrust and disdain of the Arabs, and also he does not speaks Arabic although he does business with Arab, he always speaks to the native Algerian, this express his disapproval. Theme The title The Adulterous Woman is taken from the Gospel of John. Before Jesus make his judgment, one group of people brings an adulteress women. Normally for adultery the punishment was death by the stoning. But at that time Jesus decrees the first person throw the stone that must be free from the sin.

At last no one remains. From this bible parallels, Camus made outline which is reflection of the Guillotine from the Capital Punishment. Means there is no one has capable and authority to passing judgment to another person, the reason is that no one is absolute innocence. (Source: Wikipedia, 2007) Totally opposite from the title, until the end of the story there is no any action shows Janine commit physical adultery. I think the adultery is a kind of symbol which is about in her mind. Like about the French soldier, in her mind actually she was expected something happen.

But eventually, nothing was come out of it. Therefore I think the title here may be hints that going to commit is equal to real act itself. At the beginning of the story, Janine thinks about her adolescence, at that time when she met Marcel, during that time her choices had security and independence. Later on she had perception about herself changes, and started aware actually she has a poor physical condition and her weight, these all which she pride in early she still can attract other men. Therefore I think the story is more about regain lost youth than adultery.


The title of the story Camus took from the Gospel of John. The reason he use The Adulterous Woman, because he want to say that in the world no one has capable and authority to passing judgment to another person, and no one is absolute innocence. The adultery in the story is not adultery, there is no any action shows Janine commit physical adultery. Adultery is a kind of symbol which symbolizes her mind. Therefore we can say that Janine is not an adulterous woman. Reference Academic Resources Center Inc. , 2007, Existentialism, Retrieved 26 May 2007, from:

http://www.academon. com/lib/paper/63927. html? A=shvoong Athiesm. free, 2003, Biography of Albert Camus, Retrieved 26 May 2007, from: http://atheisme. free. fr/Biographies/Camus_e. htm Oak Harbor, 2007, Amazon, Exile and the Kingdom, Retrieved 26 May 2007, from: http://www. amazon. com/exec/obidos/ASIN/067973385X/theexistentialis Wikipedia, 2007, The Adulterous Woman, Retrieved 27 May 2007, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Adulterous_Woman Wikipedia, 2007, Exile and the Kingdom, Retrieved 27 May 2007, from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Exile_and_the_Kingdom.

The Adulterous Woman Essay

Dreadful Freedom- an Essay Depicting Andy Dufresne as an Existential Hero Essay

Dreadful Freedom- an Essay Depicting Andy Dufresne as an Existential Hero Essay.

To be a true existential hero means many things. The majority of a persons actions must be in accordance with the strictly defined beliefs of an existentialist. An existential hero is very conscious of the worth and impact of his choices. He is responsible, lonely, independent, self-reliant and free. Andy Dufresne the protagonist in The Shawshank Redemption written by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont exhibits these essential existential qualities. The movie has several existential themes within it, made apparent by Andy’s words and actions.

For this reason, it is evident that Andy Dufresne is an existential hero.

In existential philosophy, a great deal of importance is placed on the concept of choice. An existential hero will acknowledge that an individuals decisions belong exclusively to that being. Andy Dufresne never tries to blame external circumstances for the events that led him to prison. He willing admits to Red that through choosing to drive her away he killed his wife.

He also doesn’t try to negate the punishment for the murders, for he recognizes that it was his choice to drive to the house of his wife and her lover with a gun, regardless of whether or not he chose to shoot.

Even once within Shawshank he continues to take responsibility for his actions. When he breaks the prison rules and locks himself in the warden’s office to play music over the loud speaker, he does not argue his punishment of two weeks in the hole, despite its excessiveness and cruelty. Andy also exhibits the existential-hero view that there is no predetermined order or fate, but rather that a man’s path is self-determining and dependent on his decisions. When the other inmates experience hope through Andy’s music and library, it is a type of passive hope that one day things would become better for them.

In contrast, Andy does not leave his fate up to chance, but rather makes choices that allow him to take control of his own life. It is align with existentialism’s philosophy of moral individualism that Andy decides to tunnel his way out of the prison twenty years into his sentence. Andy’s actions reveal his acknowledgement of his own personal freedom, regardless of the laws. The philosophy states that one must choose their own way without the aid of standards that are universal and objective, and that a person can not appeal to laws or conventions when making choices.

In his conversation with Red, Andy acknowledges the idea that all life comes down to a simple choice “either get busy living or get busy dying”. Another emphasized existential value that Andy displays is the idea of independence and self-reliance. For months after his arrival at Shawshank prison, Andy doesn’t speak to anyone. Despite his being beaten and victimized brutally by the sisters, Andy does not reach out to anyone for protection or aide. Andy spent twenty years digging a tunnel out of the side of the prison wall and not once does he ask or receive help from anyone.

He does not even tell anyone about his plan to escape, even those he had come to regard as his friends. It is important for an existential hero be aware of scope- the number of people affected by each decision. In his decision to keep his plans for escape to himself Andy is being conscientious of the scope of people affected, because had he disclosed his plan to his friends, the knowledge could have gotten them in very serious trouble. A true existential hero will show unmistakable signs of loneliness, and individuality.

Andy says that his wife has always told him that he is “difficult to know,” and presents himself as self-retreating and independent, qualities often seen in an existential hero. For an existential hero, meaning is found within oneself. Meaning does not come from external events, forces, or material items. I could be argued that Andy Dufresne does not meet this qualification. Andy is not contented with the poor supply of books in the prison library, but rather sends hundreds of letters requesting money for more books. This behavior suggests that Andy places value on “thing-ness” a very non-existential trait.

However, Andy uses the books to build for himself and his fellow inmates a great library where he teaches and helps many to get their high school diplomas. It can be concluded therefore, that Andy was not placing value in the thing-ness of books, but rather the self-improvement that comes from educating oneself. When Andy was sent to the hole for weeks, without the any of the external extremities that most rely on, the unnaturally long sentence should have been enough to drive a person to near-madness. However, the solitude had little effect on Andy.

The music inside of him was enough o keep up his moral. This is because, for Andy, his meaning is found within himself, an attribute absolutely necessary for an existential hero. Andy Dufresne is well aware of the control he has over his own life. His actions are not reflective of societies rules or conventions and he is conscious of the scope of his influence. Much of his life he has been lonely and independent. He does not value material things, and his meaning is found within himself. In conclusion, a majority of the character traits displayed by Andy Dufresne prove him to be an existential hero.

Dreadful Freedom- an Essay Depicting Andy Dufresne as an Existential Hero Essay