Theatre of the Absurd: The meaningless of human existence - How does Theatre of the Absurd use dramatic forms and stylistic features to comment on the meaningless of human existence?

Essay by leoboudibHigh School, 12th gradeA, August 2004

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The term 'Theatre of the Absurd' is used to categorise plays which do not follow conventional play structures. The main aim of these plays is to transfer the writer's vision of the world onto the stage, and generally comment on the human condition. Plays such as Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett), The Dumb Waiter (Harold Pinter), and The Bald Prima Donna (Eugene Ionesco) all comment on different types of the human condition but ultimately reflect the meaningless of human existence. They provoke thought about the pointlessness of life, the powerlessness of people over the course of their lives, and the ludicrous values and rules of 'civilised' society.

In absurdist plays, symbols play an integral part of communicating the writer's vision to the audience. In 'Waiting for Godot' the mysterious stranger Godot, who is never seen yet whom the play revolves around, can be seen to symbolise God - "And if he comes? We'll be saved".

His promises of coming to Vladimir and Estragon continue to be unfulfilled as they patiently wait day after day for his arrival. Similarly the dumbwaiter in 'The Dumb Waiter' can be seen as symbol of power. It demands a variety of dishes from Ben and Gus, complicating their perfectly planned lives and ultimately ordering them to kill the next person to walk through their door. 'The door opens, Ben turns, his revolver levelled. Gus stumbles in, they stare at each other. Curtain.' - the final stage directions of 'The Dumb Waiter'.

The barren wasteland in which 'Waiting for Godot' takes place can be seen as a metaphor for the emptiness of the character's, and indeed all people's, lives. Metaphors, like symbols, play a main role in communicating the writer's vision, and occur in most absurdist plays. In 'The Bald Prima Donna', the Martins'...