by Eugene Ionesco
The Chairs 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.
Old Man: "Ah! This house, this island, I can't get used to it. Water all around us...water under the windows, stretching as far as the horizon." (10)
As we point out in our section on "Isolation," the old couple is completely cut off. This kind of isolation is a common theme in the Theater of the Absurd. Many of the playwrights who wrote in this genre were interested in the idea that we're all totally alone, that all that we ultimately have is ourselves. The old couple's isolation could be symbolic of the isolation of all human beings.
Old Woman: "Come on now, imitate the month of February." . . .
Old Man: "All right, here's the month of February."
Stage Directions: "He scratches his head like Stan Laurel." (28-31)
The fact that the Old Man does a Stan Laurel impression here is pretty typical of the Theater of the Absurd. Stan Laurel was part of the comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy, who came from the same school of physical comedy as the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the Three Stooges. Absurdist playwrights often used this kind of clowning to highlight the ultimate absurdity of all of humanity's endeavors. Check out Shmoop's guide to Beckett's Waiting for Godot for another famous example of this.
Old Woman: "It's as if suddenly I'd forgotten everything...it's as though my mind were a clean slate every evening." (38)
Characters in Absurdist plays often have trouble with memory; it's pretty typical for an Absurdist character to have no idea what happened the day before. They're all a bit like goldfish constantly surprised every time they see the little bubbly castle. Vladimir and Estragon of Beckett's Waiting for Godot are afflicted with this same sort of chronic amnesia. Perhaps, this is all meant to call our whole perception of time and reality into question. Do we really know if anything in the past was real? Memory is a pretty unreliable thing. Maybe, all we really have is the now.