A Cycle, A Cycle, A Cycle No one is bald, nor is there a singing soprano. So what is going on in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano? Ionesco slowly strips his characters of all things that define them: religion, roots, the way in which they communicate and at times, even the functioning of their brains. Thus creating blank humans with no individual character who are useless and absurd. Now these people with no concrete definition to their being are to live in this gigantic world to the best of their ability. Their lives aren’t normal ones.
Ionesco brings out the absurdity in his characters by excluding any solid foundation or motivation for living on earth. One very important form of guidance on life’s journey is Time. If there was no concept of time then all chaos would ensue and no one would know when anything is to be done. It is also a key factor to know how to live and work alongside time: to work with it, not against it. Will they be able to live in some sense of normality or will they be off on their own supernova to be absurd for evermore.
Through the use of symbolism, irony and dialogue, Eugene Ionesco’s, The Bald Soprano conveys the idea that life is a never-ending cycle to express the absurdity of the human condition. The cycle of life is symbolized through the clock to reveal that the characters are stuck in an endless loop of time. The clock seems to take on a life all its own. It seems to decide when it wants to ring and how many times. The clock rings in a way that is quite shocking to the audience. This is because in the real world a clock does not normally ring 17 times. Nor is it normal for it to shoot out random times that don’t even go in order.
In only one moment “ The clock strikes seven times. Silence. The clock strikes three times. Silence” (The Bald Soprano 2). There seems to be no set regimen for time to follow. Time in the play is unorganized and almost absent in its common purpose. In no possible way could these characters even have the smallest possible chance of some normal routine when they have no constant to guide them through. Yes, Time is present but it is not the way in which we calculate it. There is no repeating pattern in this aspect and yet it still proceeds on which causes an endless loop of lunacy from which they cannot escape.
The peculiar thing about it is the characters are not even finding it odd, as this is their notion of normalcy. In the play “the abnormal is treated as if it were thoroughly normal” (knowlson). And its funny because they don’t even realize that it never rings the same way or goes in a repeating pattern. The clock is random. It intrudes illogically. There is no logic in the Smith’s lives. The concept of reality is being distorted and no ounce of sense remains. The characters are flat, broad and general, which clearly emphasizes the absurdity of the human condition: trying to find a meaning and purpose to life.
Even the primary characters last name, which is Smith, is so plain and typical. The plays cyclical structure accentuates repetition of the illogical happenings in the incompatible world in which the Smiths, Martins, the Maid and the Fire Chief live in. The play includes a “circular trajectory that ends where it began” (Kraus), thus causing the whole disordered cycle to start over and where the characters are involuntarily perplexed for all eternity. The characters live in a world of irony. They are lost in a continuum of memory loss without even realizing that they are losing their minds.
Considering they don’t realize, they have no recollection of what has been going on around them and therefore not knowing what their purpose is in being where they are. This constant back and forth concept is for one, ironic because they have no memory of no longer having memory, but it is also mind-boggling. Mrs. Smith says, “We were expecting them. And we were hungry. Since they didn’t put in an appearance, we were going to start dinner without them. We’ve had nothing to eat all day” (The Bald Soprano 4). Mrs. Smith said she and Mr. Smith were going to eat but they didn’t.
The characters can’t even remember what decisions they made and can’t remember to follow them. There is no stable element to guide them along a steady path. In the real world our memories our like our personal book of stories that hold the events that have happened in our lives. It defines us as a person of who we are in the past as well as who we are now. We as humans also interpret things we experience differently and remember things in different ways. Though we rely on our memory and mind quite heavily, who says it is a reliable resource to begin with?
Ionesco is pointing towards the idea that our minds can’t possibly do everything for us as well as remember anything and everything we want it to. Unreliability of the memory is a concept that Ionesco wants us to take a look at, and that is a natural human failure that is part of our absurdity. As seen in The Bald Soprano the mind isn’t always a dependable tool that is conducive to everyday living. Our experiences make up our life’s journey and define our being. Ionesco’s characters do not know who they are and their purpose for living. At the end of the play the two couples switch places.
The Smiths become the Martins and the Martins the Smiths. This results “in a da capo conclusion [with] the words that had been spoken by the Smiths at the beginning of the play [are now being spoken by the Martins]” (Knowlson). It’s ironic how they repeat the story but as different people but with the same name, because what is the purpose of having a name and being somebody if anyone can be anyone? Ionesco brings out inconsistency, which is a major factor in the play and possibly a factor in our lives. Without consistency the lives in which we lead would lack substance and meaning.
Ionesco suggests the idea of a normal daily schedule in which a human being can follow and keep order is a necessity. The human condition may seem absurd at times because what really is the point in doing the same thing everyday for as long as we live? The answer is, the consistency in the constant never ending cycle is life, which is why we are living. There may be nonsense in the play but somehow it leads to sense. The ironic statements due to memory loss show the absurdity in which humans possess. Mr. Smith is one who can be categorized as so.
Without his memory he puts out ironic phrases without even putting thought to it and this leads to a lack of sentence structure. The play is made up of dialogue that sometimes seems to lack a sense of logic. The language in the play decreases in substance as the play progresses. The “language flows independently from meaning” (Feal). The words are not communicating what they seem to say but rather the underlying meaning, which is found in the way the language is used or how really how it is informally used. Language and meaning march to the beat of a different drum.
The words are separate entities that work independently yet together to convey Ionesco’s view on language, which is that it is made out to be more than what it is really worth. Language is used as a communicator and the order, or lack of it, in which words are placed, conveys a message of pure insanity. The characters “actions contradict words, and [their] words contradict [their] actions. Even the title is misleading, since there is no bald soprano in the play” (Esteban). Ionesco writes where there is meaning in no meaning, so he probably intended on writing with meaning all along.
The characters talk just to talk and they really have nothing of importance to say. As the play drags on while the structure becomes less and less until dialogue has lost all value and “made into mere exchange” (Knowlson). The words on the page are out of content and have become particles of matter that are floating in the air. The more they talk, the less they are actually communicating and this is causing the precious tool of language to no longer articulate. Like when Mr. Smith states “The pope elopes! The pope’s got no horoscope.
The horoscope’s bespoke” (The Bald Soprano 17). The play starts out with sentences that make no sense at all then it breaks down to just words without meaning until finally all that is left is a bunch of frenzied sounds. The characters have gotten quite angry that they lost all ability to communicate that their chatter swells up into mushy sound. They live in a never-ending cycle of insignificant discourse. This is Ionesco pointing out the absurdity of how humans converse. The Bald Soprano is a piece under the genre of the Absurd. It is very easy to see why.
In this genre a common aspect is that the characters are rapt in an endlessly repeating cycle. This cycle usually leads nowhere as it is a cycle with no beginning and no end. Ionesco uses this cycle to emulate life. Life is filled with a bunch of meaningless things that fill our everyday lives. Banana. When something is of meaning we know because we have experienced the everyday typical life of a human. Broadway. Dreams. Goals. That’s what we are. Well that’s what we should be. Life is pretty much repeating. Repeating. Repeating. Repeating. We have a set way of doing things and we follow it.
We repeat these actions to fill up our lives with substance so that there is at least something there to start with and so that we have the ability to move forward and continue. Think of it as muscles. Muscles give our body substance to stand up and it is what allows us to move as well as other necessary functions. In our world we use a clock to stay in touch with time. Time. Timing. Bad timing. Time is a fundamental concept that guides humans through life, gives structure, as well as ages and heals. We also say funny things sometimes and we do use a language to communicate. It is how we use all these things that matters.
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