Study Guide

Rhinoceros Summary

By Eugène Ionesco

Rhinoceros Summary

Berenger lives his life the way he wants. He’s late, he’s disheveled, and he’s a bit of a drinker. Think of someone who hates the 9-to-5 thing, so he invents a start-up instead. Luckily (or unluckily), his friend Jean is there to try to clean him up. The two chat at a café about a lot of things, but mainly Jean tries to bully Berenger into getting his act together.

Don’t worry, things get crazy pretty quickly mid-cafe therapy session. Berenger is just taking sip when, out of the blue, a rhinoceros storms through the neighborhood, creating panic and pandemonium. Pretty much what you'd expect when a rhinoceros storms through a quiet little French neighborhood.

As the play progresses, everyone Berenger knows transforms into a rhinoceros, and it seems like they’re making a conscious decision to let it happen rather than involuntarily getting stuck with the rhinovirus (get it?). For instance, Jean gets all fired up about wanting to live a “natural” life, and pretty soon he has a horn sprouting from his forehead.

In the end, Berenger and Daisy, his coworker and lady friend, are on their own. It looks like these two lovebirds might just be able to stick it out, but their relationship pretty much crumbles in the span of about seven minutes. Daisy starts getting gray and leathery and tears off to join the others, and Berenger is left as the last man standing.

So there he is, railing against the rhinoceroses and proclaiming, “I’m the last man left, and I’m staying that way!” Think I am Legend but with way less carnage and more philosophical French dudes.