Commitment to Free Will
Rhinoceros by EugÃÂ¨ne Ionesco starts in a small town where Jean, a witty young man, meets his apathetic and existentialist friend, Berenger, for a drink. During their conversation a rhinoceros runs through the square of the town, frightening everybody with the exception of Berenger. As more and more rhinoceroses appear in the town, Berenger remains the only one unmoved by them. Over time, it becomes apparent that it is people who are morphing into rhinoceroses. Berenger is indecisive as to whether or not he would prefer to become a follower of the status quo of being a rhinoceros or to remain an existentialist. In the last line of the play, however, he takes a large responsibility in deciding to save the human race from the tyranny of the rhinoceroses.
The transformation of Berenger from a seemingly purposeless alcoholic, into the savior of humanity reflects his struggle to remain an existentialist despite the status quo.
Berenger does not have great will-power, as demonstrated by his frequent relapses to alcohol and dreaming. However, he "feel(s) responsible for" the various metamorphoses of people around him, starting after Act One. Berenger feels that "when you're involved yourself, when you suddenly find yourself up against the brutal facts you can't help feeling directly concerned." This realization enables Berenger to metamorphose into a person who is responsible, concerned for others and committed to free will. (78-79)
While the other characters physically turn into rhinoceroses, exposing the negative natures they had formerly concealed, Berenger's change is moral and completely opposite from his position at the start of the play. He begins as a lifeless, alienated person who drinks too much and finds life worthless, except for his attraction to a co-worker. He is bored by his work and wonders if life is...