The Bald Soprano
by Eugene Ionesco
Tools of Characterization
As in any drama, the character's actions say a lot about who they are. What's interesting about The Bald Soprano is that the characters don't really do much of anything. Well, they don't do anything big anyway – they don't climb mountains or slay dragons or anything. Mostly, they sit in the Smiths' living room talking about a bunch of nonsense. This in itself defines who they are, however. In many ways, the characters represent the Absurdist view of all humanity. Their lack of significant action represents the way many of us fill our days with meaningless activities.
We get a good deal of direct characterization in the play. What's interesting is that it comes from the characters themselves and not some omniscient narrator. Quite often the characters tell us exactly who they are in very plain language. Mrs. Smith begins the play by saying things like, "we live in the suburbs and our name is Smith" (2). When Mary enters later on she tells us, "I'm the maid. I have spent a very pleasant afternoon. I've been to the cinema with a man and I've seen a film with some women" (77). You see lines like this throughout the play. The characters are constantly directly characterizing themselves. These statements of obvious fact were inspired by the English language primer on which Ionesco based the play. More on that can be found in the "Intro."
It's not clear what the Smiths of the Martins do, but with the other two characters are almost totally defined by their occupations. The Fire Chief, for example, doesn't even have a name. He's just called Fire Chief. His main concern, besides the telling of weird fables, is the lack of fires throughout the city. The Fire Chief is really bummed out because there's nothing for him to do.
Mary, the maid, is also defined by her occupation. This is made very clear when she tries to join in on the storytelling. The Smiths and the Martins are highly offended that a lowly maid would want to act like an equal. The Fire Chief is offended at first as well, until he realizes that Mary is his long-lost love. All in all, Mary's occupation as a maid defines her as being part of a lower class than the rest of the characters. As a result, she gets much less respect, even though she may be smarter than all of them.