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Themes

In The Chairs, an old man longs to bring meaning to his wasted life. All his dreams have come to nothing, and now he's trapped in a boring, repetitive existence. His grand plan is to deliver a message that will articulate the meaning of life, but as the play progresses, this dream becomes more and more absurd. We're forced to ask ourselves if there's any point in making plans at all. Do all dreams ultimately end in disappointment? Of course, we might also ask if the Old Man's dreams would have come true if only he'd taken responsibility for his own actions. This idea of personal responsibility is central in the philosophy of Existentialism, which seems to inspire the play.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. Are all human dreams absurd? Why or why not?
  2. Is the Old Man's dream of helping humanity totally selfless? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think the Orator's dream might be? The Old Woman's?
  4. How might an Existentialist justify a person pursuing a goal in life? If there's no point, then why bother?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When the Old Man's dream fails to come true at the end of the play, it shows that all human ambitions are ultimately absurd.

The Old Man's dreams don't come true because he refused to take responsibility for his own actions.

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