Rhinoceros, and Other Plays Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Rhinoceros, and Other Plays.
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Rhinoceros, and Other Plays Summary & Study Guide Description

Rhinoceros, and Other Plays Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Rhinoceros, and Other Plays by Eugène Ionesco.

Rhinoceros is an allegorical play about the nature and causes of totalitarianism. Berenger watches with horror as everyone around him is transformed into a rhinoceros. The transformation is not only physical; the rhinoceroses' philosophy is one which reverts man to his brutish, might-makes-right instincts.

The play begins with Berenger meeting his friend Jean on their day off of work. Jean is frustrated with Berenger because he does nothing to improve his life: He is always disheveled, he is a drunkard, and he has no ambition in life. Jean, on the other hand, is the picture of tidiness and worldly ambition. During the course of their conversation, two rhinoceroses are seen—surely a strange and terrifying occurrence for a "small provincial town" somewhere in France. The town is excited by the news, but life goes on as normal. Berenger goes to work, but before long, another rhinoceros is sighted, this time outside the office. Evidently, it is one of the office's employees—whom the boss assumed was neglecting his work duties; somehow, he has become a rhinoceros. The employees escape the office and Berenger heads over to Jean's apartment.

Jean has fallen ill and his voice has become quite hoarse. Jean, usually cordial if somewhat demanding, seems different. He is outright belligerent now. He denies the value of friendship and instead asserts that a man ought to just take what he wants and not let anyone stand in his way. He condemns morality and advocates a return to the law of nature where the strong dominate the weak. Berenger is quite shocked by his friend's unwonted behavior and tries to get him to see a doctor, but Jean is completely unwilling, even as his condition continues to deteriorate. His skin is turning greener by the moment and is even starting to become leathery. His voice, at first just hoarse, is so deep that Berenger can barely understand it. The bump on his head is well on its way to being a horn and he even tries to use it to gore Berenger. Berenger locks him in his bathroom and runs for help, but discovers that he is now surrounded by rhinoceroses.

He manages to escape to his apartment where he holds out with Dudard, one of his co-workers. It seems that virtually the entire town has become rhinoceroses. While Berenger is disgusted by the rhinoceroses and their brutish philosophy, Dudard is more sympathetic. As they discuss it, Dudard gradually finds himself sympathizing with them. The breaking point occurs when Daisy, an attractive blonde girl who works at their office, arrives. They both are attracted to her, but Daisy's seeming preference for Berenger drives Dudard to leave and join the rhinoceroses. Berenger and Daisy develop a relationship with astonishing speed, quickly confessing their love for one another. For a time, she is a distraction from the rhinoceroses, but he is quickly reminded of them. She tries to urge him to find a way to co-exist, but he cannot. Their disagreement ends with her leaving and Berenger winds up the last man alive, vowed to resist the rhinoceroses until the very end.

"The Leader" is a brief play depicting the citizens of a nation watching their leader with awe and admiration. They finally discover that he has no head, but they rationalize that it means nothing.

In "The Future is in the Eggs" two young lovers, Jacques and Roberta, are forced to procreate by their families, who are eager to perpetuate the "white race" and create new members of industrial society.

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