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Word Count: 830
Oh a rhinoceros shouts Jean the smug and somewhat shallow friend to the main character Berenger in the 20th century French play Rhinoceros Jeans response to the noisy intrusion of the two rhinoceroses running past the cafe is followed by a number of similar senseless responses from Jeans co-workers and acquaintances Eugene Ionesco the Romanian-born French dramatist uses the absurd notion of rhinoceroses taking over a small provincial town in France to explore lifes constant struggle between maintaining ones individuality and succumbing to the mass-mind of conformity The three-act play is essentially a metaphor for people abandoning their own beliefs to join the mass herd majority In fact Ionesco describes it as an anti-Nazi play It also reflects a view that holds the universe to be ultimately irrational meaningless and absurd a notion commonly upheld in the Theater of the Absurd a mid-20th century theater movement Tragedy and comedy collide in this illustration of the absurdity of the human condition The play centers on Berenger a young man confused by lifes many conflicts His struggles with life reflect those of Ionesco himself Berenger is the one character who sees the reality of life and is determined not to succumb to the disease of conformity However clear the problems of humanity are to him his ultimate confusion is obvious when he says Sometimes I wonder if I exist myself These existentialist concerns reflect Ionescos philosophical questions of his own existence In fact this play causes its audience to contemplate such issues within themselves Except for Berenger the characters in the play show their senselessness and single-mindedness in the first and second acts by their reactions to the rhinoceroses The Old Gentleman hardly notices them at all He is more interested in winning the affections of the Housewife by helping her gather her things that she drops when startled by the brutes It becomes clear that none of them see the rhinoceroses as possible precursors of the
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