"They give birth astride of a grave": Theatre of the Absurd and the disconnect from society
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The concerns of the 1950s as a consequence of World War II reverberated around Europe. The theatre of the time strived to exclude cultural context and to provide an audience with escape however this was changed by the playwrights of Theatre of the Absurd. The dissertation will focus on Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1948), Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party (1958) and Rhinoceros (1959) by Eugene Ionesco. The three chapters of the dissertation are conventions of the genre that contribute to the disconnect from 1950s society. Conformity as a theme is prevalent in the Absurdist's work; the playwrights confront the totalitarian regimes that had ruled society by producing individuals who reject authority. In contrast to this is the concept of the 'Pseudo-Couple', conventionally a conformist pair, composite of two minds equalling one self. The 'Pseudo-Couples' serve to highlight the individual as they turn to one another for comfort in a time of disarray. Finally, time acts as a thread throughout the plays both literally and historically. The loss of time due to the war is in the forefront of the playwrights work and this is also reflected in the behaviour of the 'Pseudo-Couples' as they use each other in an attempt to fill their time. Due to the playwright's strict visions and use of linguistic devices, time is manipulated and the plays are stuck in a post-war decade. In considering the Absurdist's work as a reflection of 1950s society, this study has aimed to reassess Theatre of the Absurd by identifying key conventions that contribute to a post-war reading of the plays.
Dissertation by Emily Denham for the BA English & Drama course, submitted May 2012.