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The Chairs

The Chairs

by Eugene Ionesco

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

The Old Man and Old Woman are stuck in the same old cycle.

At the beginning of the play, the Old Man and Woman are doing what they apparently do every evening. They hang out in their house, which is surrounded by water, reminiscing and playing make believe. We get the impression that their lives have become an endless cycle of boredom and regret.

Conflict

Tonight the Old Man's message will finally be heard.

We learn that the Old Man has been working his entire life on crafting a message that will bring meaning to the lives of all humanity. Pretty much everybody in the world is showing up tonight to hear it. The Old Man, feeling he can't deliver the message himself, has hired an Orator to speak it for him.

Complication

The invisible guests arrive.

The guests start to show up. They're all invisible. No one can see them but the old couple. (Or can they?) The Old Man and Woman run around greeting their invisible guests and finding chairs for them to sit in. They get super excited when the biggest invisible guest of all arrives – the Emperor.

Climax

The Orator arrives. Double suicide.

At long last he Orator arrives. Surprisingly, he's actually played by a real person. The Old Man is so happy that his message will now be heard. He and his wife commit suicide because they've done all they can for the world; their lives are now complete. The play peaks as the Orator opens his mouth to finally deliver the long-awaited message.

Suspense

The Orator struggles to communicate.

It becomes clear that the Orator is a deaf-mute. He tries to deliver the message to the crowd, but his words sound like gibberish.

Denouement

The Orator tries another tactic, then gives up.

The frustrated Orator tries writing on a blackboard to get the message across. Once again all he can communicate is incomprehensible. Finally he gives up and exits the stage, with the message undelivered.

Conclusion

The invisible crowd is heard.

Suddenly, the sound of the invisible crowd fills the empty stage. The sound swells and then fades into nothing. The curtain slowly falls.

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