by Eugene Ionesco
The Chairs Language and Communication 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.
Old Man: "Then at last we arrived, we laughed till we cried, the story was so idiotic...the idiot arrived full speed, bare-bellied, the idiot was pot-bellied...he arrived with a trunk chock full of rice; the rice spilled out on the ground [...] the idiotic belly, bare with rice on the ground, the trunk, the story of sick from rice belly to ground, bare-bellied, all with rice, at last we laughed, the idiot at last arrived all bare, we laughed..." (59)
Umm, so where exactly is this little story going? It's almost impossible to understand what the heck the Old Man is talking about. Is he the idiot with rice on his belly? Did he and his wife just see some guy wallowing on the ground with rice? Don't worry, we have no idea either. If you look closely at the story, though, you'll notice how the same words loop and repeat, until they steadily become more and more nonsensical. Ionesco uses this method throughout the play, perhaps in an attempt to show the arbitrariness of language. Can words ever really communicate exactly how we feel? Can they ever really bring back the past?
Old Man: "I have a message, that's God's truth. I struggle, a mission, I have something to say, a message to communicate to humanity, to mankind..." (89)
Notice that the Old Man hopes to use language to bring meaning to his life and to the lives of the rest of humanity. His great message is supposed to come in the form of words. What do you think this says about the power of words?