Week 4: Existentialism and Theater of the Absurd

Not I

Existentialism is a movement in philosophy and literature which highlights human existence, choices made by a person and his freedom. Theatre of Absurd is a style of writing plays which was originated after the First World War and thrived in the wake of the Second World War. Their work focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens to human beings when their existence has no meaning. This style almost ceased after Samuel Beckett’s death. The plays which belong to the Theatre of Absurd do not have a traditional plot and neither do they have a traditional character development. The play usually focuses on human being trapped in the void and is a victim of unknown arbitrary forces. The play challenges audience to make sense out of the nonsensical blabber. (Theater of the Absurd: Definition & Characteristics)

Adhering to the Theatre of Absurd characteristics, “Not I” does not have any plot and there is no traditional character development. The Mouth utters jumbled words at a very fast pace and in a very short span of time; the entire life of the woman who has lived loveless life is experienced by the audience. The writer does not tell us the meaning of the words neither does he want to imply any story. Language seems to have lost its function of communication. It is up to the audience to imagine a story. Every person in the audience may perceive it differently. They may have imagined it differently and that is the one of the main characteristics of absurd play. In normal play where plots are developed and we want to know what happens next but in absurd play we ask ourselves “what are we seeking”.

Theatre of Absurd also says that person who has been disconnected from the universe or his surroundings leads to chaos. One way of looking at the speaker in “Not I” is, her body and soul are disconnected or the other way of looking at it is she is disconnected from her surroundings or universe. Here The Mouth never ever talks about self as “I”. She does not know what she is saying and most of the times she is mute only with mouth half open as usual, shows she has no understanding of her surroundings. Minimal use of personal pronoun may be a sign of insanity and she could simply be mad or in-cohesive. According to existentialism, man is free to make his own choices and with this freedom comes the responsibility. One has to face consequences of the choices he has made. The Mouth has remained silent almost all her life which has reduced her to being almost non-existent. (Bozer)


Bozer, A. D. (n.d.). NOT I: An Existentialist Statement on the Human Condition. Retrieved from http://www.ide.hacettepe.edu.tr/ekitap2/7.pdf

Theater of the Absurd: Definition & Characteristics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/theater-of-the-absurd-definition-characteristics-quiz.html



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