Eugene Ionesco was born in Rome in November 1909. He moved to France after his youth. Later in his teenhood, he returned to Romania, where he worked as a French tutor. He went back to France to complete his doctoral studies and then stayed there as a result of the outbreak of war in 1939. When he was there, he began to learn English and finally decided to work as a playwright. Eugene has written many plays, including The Bald Soprano, The Lesson, The Chairs, and The Rhinoceros.
The play, the Rhinoceros, was written mostly in the year 1959 and has three acts. The setting of the play is in a small provincial town in France. Throughout the three acts, the people of this city turn into rhinoceroses. The only person who is not influenced by this metamorphosis is Berenger is described as simple, kind, unkempt, and drunkard (Ionesco 12). The characters are evidence in the way Jean analyses him the moment they meet in a coffee house to discuss an urgent issue. At first, everyone seems to be against the appearance of the rhinos because of the damage they cause. A mass of people unites to protest against the existence of these rhinos. But gradually, everyone seems to change to a rhino. Individuals are seen becoming rhinos due to the way the thinking of others influences their thinking. “You don’t exist, my dear Berenger, because you don’t think.”(Ionesco 25). For instance, in scene two where Berenger and Jean argue about the possibility of people becoming rhinos, Jean’s thinking seems to be against the rhinos. But as the talk continues, Jean begins to change his stand against them. He now argues that rhinoceros have a right to life just like other humans. The change in his psychological thinking makes him change to rhino just like the rest. Individuals are changing as a result of being brainwashed.
Since the majority of people have turned to rhinos, the minority who seem to be against it are forced to conform, as seen where Berenger tries to convince Daisy to re-populate humans. Daisy refuses and finally supports the majority the rhinoceros. The concept of the majority being rhinoceros makes Berenger also to doubt himself. He thinks that since the majority has changed, then he has also changed as demonstrated in the way he checks himself in the mirror. “They are the good- looking ones. I was wrong. Oh, how I wish I were like them.”(Ionesco 19)
However, these individuals were not wrong for wanting to follow the herd of rhino’s transformation. It was hard to resist it since almost all the people had changed. A small group could not fight against a larger group supporting certain ideas. It was not easy because the majority of these people seemed to think at the same level and also have similar ideas.
This play compares to Nazi where all individuals were becoming Iron guards each day. The Nazis’ were against the Romania’s Jews. The majority of the people supported this movement. At first one would look like being against this movement, but after a few days, the person will be singing along with those who supported it (Kafka et al. 22). The influence, therefore, compares to individuals turning into unreasonable rhinoceros and supporting the movement which was against the Jews as a result of the effect of the compact majority. At the end of, only a few individuals remain active against this Nazi movement. Similarly, in the rhinoceros play, it is only Berenger who seems not to be converted into rhinoceros.
Franz Kafka, like Eugene Ionesco, was also one of the successful writers in German. The majority of their writings seem to be similar in one way or another. Among their related scripts is Franz’s Metamorphosis and Eugene’s Rhinoceros. The transformation is similar because both writings talk about human to animal transformation. In Ionesco’s work, people are being converted to rhinoceros while in the Kafka’s work, the person changes into a big frightening creature, a cockroach. In Kafka’s work Gregor, who is a salesman, wakes up one morning and find out that his body has fully changed to a cockroach (Kafka et al. 23). His voice also seems to have transformed. The change experienced is similar in the way Jean was also turning into a rhinoceros. His voice became hoarse. His skin became greener and greener, and horns started growing on his head. The new appearance of Gregor makes him be isolated from the rest of the people. Gregor is limited to movements and most of the time he is supposed to remain hidden in his room. He is considered unclean therefore separated from the rest.
Gregor and Berenger are similar. Both characters are seen to be working in an office. Berenger complaints of the new regulations in the office while Gregor fears to go to work due to his new appearance. Ionesco’s and Kafka’s work are similar because they have many themes which appear to be similar in both writings.
Ionesco, Eugène, Eugène Ionesco, Eugène Ionesco, and Eugène Ionesco. Rhinoceros and Other Plays. New York: Grove Press, 1960. Internet resource.
Kafka, Franz, Susan Bernofsky, and Mark M. Anderson. The Metamorphosis: A New Translation, Texts and Contexts, Criticism. , 2016. Print.