The Bald Soprano Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used Donald M. Allen's translation.
Fire Chief: "'The Dog and the Cow,' an experimental fable. Once upon a time another cow asked another dog: 'Why have you not swallowed you trunk?' 'Pardon me,' replied the dog, 'it is because I thought that I was an elephant.'"
Mrs. Martin: "What's the moral?"
Fire Chief: "That's for you to find out." (251-253)
This little story in many ways explains the play as a whole and actually the Theatre of the Absurd itself. As we discuss in "Versions of Reality," it's nearly impossible to tell whether the animals in the story are cows, dogs, or elephants. It's even harder to figure out why anyone would want to tell such a weird and seemingly pointless story. The nonsensical nature of the fable is reminiscent of The Bald Soprano and many other Absurdist plays. Many audiences have probably wondered what the ultimate point of watching such crazy plays is. In the Absurdist view, however, the "real" world is just as nonsensical and pointless. It's up to each one of us to make sense of it for ourselves.
Fire Chief: "'The Head Cold.' My brother-in-law had, on the paternal side, a first cousin whose maternal uncle had a father-in-law whose paternal grandfather had married as his second wife a young native whose brother he had met on one of his travels, a girl of whom he was enamored and by who he had son who married an intrepid lady pharmacist who was none other than the niece of an unknown fourth-class petty officer in the Royal Navy and whose adopted father […]" (392)
Does this story make your head hurt? Even this little chunk we've included above makes us feel a little dizzy, and the whole version is three times as long. The Fire Chief goes on and on merely recounting lots of people and the ways in which they are connected. Most of these people don't even seem particularly remarkable, like the "unknown fourth-class petty officer" mentioned above. Why is the Fire Chief wasting our time with this? Especially since the point of the whole story is nothing more than the fact that all these people once "caught a cold" (405). That seems like a pretty pointless point to make. Of course, to an Absurdist most every point is pointless. In some ways, this seemingly meaningless story could be seen as highlighting the idea that all our lives are meaningless. We're all running around doing lots of things that don't ultimately add up to much in the end.
Fire Chief: "all this is very subjective…but this is my conception of the world." (466)
It looks like the Fire Chief is an Absurdist. The idea that everything is "subjective" is at the heart of the philosophy. Absurdists believe that the universe is ultimately unknowable and that reality itself is uncertain. It's up to each individual to decide what is meaningful and indeed what is real for themselves. In a way, this is the light at the end of the tunnel for what is often accused as being a pretty depressing philosophy. It doesn't have to be a bad thing that nothing matters. In a way, the idea can be seen as liberating. We're all totally free to make our own choices, as long as we're willing to live with their consequences.