Study Guide

The Townsfolk in Rhinoceros

By Eugène Ionesco

The Townsfolk

Every good French provincial play needs some quality townsfolk to help set the scene by representing simple stereotypes. Ionesco gives us glimpses of men and women who run shops, work in cafes, and just sort of exist in the neighborhood.

So there’s the Old Man (yes, his name is Old Man) who’s clearly smitten with a Housewife (same story) who owns a cat. There’s a husband and wife plotting how to get people into their store to buy useless items.

And then there is the Logician. And let’s be real: of all the townspeople, the Logician probably stands out the most. Just the idea of a town Logician is pretty cool. Most towns have at least one old guy and a lady with a cat, but when’s the last time you hung out with the local Logician?

He’s there to regale the others with a syllogism (yes, that’s as silly as it sounds), and he’s there to stand as a strong supporter of logic. After all, logic is his job. Yet the beauty of the Logician is that, in Ionesco’s world, he’s just as lost as anyone else.

His syllogism is utterly ridiculous: he uses his logic to prove that dogs are also cats. In the end, he turns into a rhinoceros just like everyone else. Still, he manages to hang on to his trusty boater hat, remaining a little different from the other townspeople to the very end:

DUDARD: He’s the only rhinoceros in a boater! That makes you think […]He’s still retained a vestige of his old individuality. (3.1.556-559)

Now that’s logic!