The search for individual identity in the works of Eugene Ionesco, 1950-1985
The thesis aims to demonstrate that the search for individual identity is fundamental to lonesco's work, affecting every aspect of his artistic creation. The crisis of identity, lonesco suggests, stems from early childhood when the individual experiences a separation from himself, from his surroundings, and from others. Thereafter, two states of being divide all existence: joy, wonder, and a firm awareness of being alternating with moods of anguish and estrangement from the self. This inner tension provokes the individual to seek a more secure sense of identity. The theme of the search runs throughout lonesco's theatre, portrayed as an allegorical search for another world or as an attempt to penetrate the depths of the consciousness through dreams or a return to childhood. These searches fail, for the key to the self lies not in escape or a change of material circumstances, but in the painful struggle to maintain one's lucidity and integrity against the forces that oppose individuality. Chapters four to nine examine these forces: the hostility of the material world, the threat of death, the attempts of the family and of society to force conformity to social norms, the more deliberate attempt of politicians to limit individual freedom, and finally the breakdown of communication through the distortion of language into clichés and slogans. Artistic creation is a means of counterbalancing these pressures by exposing the dangers of a mechanical existence and reaffirming the potentials of the individual. Lonesco proposes no final solutions because they would falsify the living, dynamic nature of identity which must constantly be approached afresh by the continual questioning that is fundamental to life and art. Moreover, it is not the solution that is important but the depth and sincerity of the search which lonesco's work challenges each individual to undertake by himself in total freedom.