Study Guide

The Co-Workers in Rhinoceros

The Co-Workers

Daisy and Dudard function in Berenger’s life outside the office, but a few characters in the play stay relegated to the workplace. Let’s be honest, most of us have coworkers that we really don’t want to hang out with outside of work. Sure, there’s always the mandatory holiday party, but you’re not calling them up on the weekend or anything. For Berenger, those folks are Botard and Papillon.

Is This Botard for Real?

Botard only makes an appearance in one scene, but it’s a pretty solid part for an actor. Botard is that guy who doesn’t trust anyone or anything. He’s the conspiracy theorist of the group. If he were around today he would swear up and down that the moon landing never happened and that the assassination of JFK was carried out by a tribunal made up of the Illuminati and middle managers.

In the play, he’s just convinced that the rhinoceroses that everyone is freaking out about aren’t real. He doesn’t trust the educated folks like Dudard, he doesn’t trust eyewitnesses like Daisy, he doesn’t trust the newspapers, and he definitely doesn’t trust “the management.” He’s pretty sure it’s all a scam:

BOTARD: I don’t mean to be offensive. But I don’t believe a word of it. No rhinoceros has ever been seen in this country! (2.1.231)

No one can question Botard as far as Botard is concerned. He comes off like one of those guys who will tell you whatever bands you’re into are terrible and then launch off on a twenty-minute lecture as to why liking that band makes you an idiot. Yes, now you see why he stays just a coworker.

The payoff with Botard is great, though. When rhino-Boeuf shows up at the office and carries Mrs. Boeuf away, Botard is forced to admit that there are indeed rhinoceroses afoot. (Or is it ahoof?) He brilliantly backpedals and says he never said there weren’t rhinos, he just needed more proof. Uh huh, right buddy.

Then, he immediately launches into a beautifully vague conspiracy theory about the whole thing:

BOTARD: And I also know the names of those responsible. The names of the traitors. You can’t fool me. I’ll let you know the purpose and meaning of this whole plot! I’ll unmask the perpetrators! (2.1.571-574)

Sure you will, Botard. Sure you will. In the end, we find out that Botard joined up with the others and is just as rhino as the rest of them. Don’t worry, he probably finds a way to scuff the ground or something in a way that still annoys people.

Papillon (or Butterfly, for you English speakers)

Mr. Papillon is pretty flighty (he is named for a butterfly, after all) so don’t look for a lot of depth to this guy. Basically he fills the very important role of representing “management.” A middle manager, if you want to be specific. There are folks above him dictating policy, and it’s his job to make sure those policies get followed.

Plus, he believes anything that’s printed in the paper, making him a foil for Botard in some respects.

He’s not a tyrant, but the outside world can’t shake him from his sense of duty to the job. Even after one of his workers turns into a rhinoceros, and the stairs leading to the office collapse, he only really cares about being a manger:

PAPILLON: I want you all back in the office this afternoon. (2.1.598)

A bit of a hard-arse, as we like to say in the office world.

When Berenger finds out that Papillon has transformed into a rhinoceros, he’s shocked, because Papillon was good at his job and seemed to love bossing the little people around. Maybe there’s more to Papillon than meets the eye.

Overall, we don’t see a lot of him, and as far as Daisy’s concerned he’s kind of a gross old man who goes in for sexual harassment in the workplace. Better off rhinoceros, for sure. Whatever the case, Ionesco paints this middle manager as a man who simply exists to do his job and make others do their jobs as he sees fit.