by Eugene Ionesco
The Chairs Theme of Mortality
The specter of death looms large over the characters in The Chairs. The Old Man and Woman know that their lives will soon be over. The fact of their mortality drives them both to seek some sort of meaning in their lives. In the Absurdist view, the inevitability of death renders many of our actions ultimately meaningless – at least in a universal sense. The play seems to suggest that the only way to bring meaning to our time on earth is to decide for ourselves what is meaningful. Throughout the play, we watch the Old Man and Woman scramble desperately to create meaning before the inevitable end. Perhaps the play is pointing out that this is, to some extent, how we all spend our lives. It could be that everything we do – work, marry, have children, write plays – is motivated by our inherent fear of our own mortality.
Questions About Mortality
- How does a fear of death motivate the characters in the play?
- Do you think the invisible guests could be ghosts? Why or why not?
- What is the larger meaning of the old couple's double suicide?
Chew on This
The play suggests that everything human beings do is out of a fear of death.
The play expresses a negative view of suicide, showing that it is the ultimate example of not taking responsibility for one's life.