Responding to Rhino Reviews #1

So I've been reading about what others think of the play.  Michael Billington of The Guardian says that Ionesco's "central metaphor is also so vague as to be meaningless: you could apply it with equal validity to Nazism, communism or capitalist consumerism. In celebrating nonconformist individualism as automatically heroic, he is in danger of assuming every minority is right."

Two comments.  One, I think the open-endedness of Ionesco's central idea of non-conformist individualism should be celebrated as opposed to criticized: plays that endure beyond the time in which they were written do so because they contain universal themes that translate from one generation to the next.  It has been said that history repeats itself; if this is true, then we need plays that revisit these important themes to remind us of how we have behaved (whether the behaviour was laudable or egregious) so that we might be spared from repeating our mistakes.  The metaphor might be vague but if we can connect with it in the present, then I think it isn't meaningless.

Two, I agree with Billington that it's a danger to assume that every minority is right; however, I think that Ionesco leaves room in his play for debate as to whether it's a good or bad thing to become a rhinoceros.  For my part, as I read the play I often found myself asking, "Are the rhinos really that bad?  There's beauty in their song, nobility in their stature and awe in their power.  Does Ionesco want me to want to become a rhino or to resist the impulse?"  All the characters-including Berenger-wrestle with the question of whether it's better "to be or not to be" a rhino and I would venture to say that Ionesco wants the audience to wrestle with this question as well.

Last updated Aug. 21st, 2008 at 3:30pm by Aaron Caleb