Rhinoceros | Study Guide

Eugène Ionesco

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Rhinoceros | Character Analysis

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Berenger

Berenger is a person who has difficulty fitting in with society. He is lazy, has a disheveled appearance, and drinks too much. However, Berenger is not a complete outcast. He holds a job in a legal firm, where he apparently has worked for some time. But he could be seen as a misfit who does not think and behave like most people. For instance, as opposed to most people, Berenger constantly doubts himself and has little ambition to improve his life. His one passion is his romantic interest in Daisy. However, despite his lack of ambition, Berenger has a warm heart and shows true concern for his friends. For example, after he realizes people are turning into rhinoceroses, he focuses on apologizing to Jean instead of on the developing rhinoceros epidemic. Indeed, Berenger often feels guilt, which is an emotion none of the other characters feel. Berenger's character develops from a person who takes the rhinoceros sightings in a nonchalant way to someone who is more shocked about the rhinoceroses than anyone and defiantly resists changing into one. Berenger feels the horror of the rhinoceros epidemic as it unfolds while other people go along with the epidemic. Berenger's qualities as an outsider enable him to see the tragedy of the epidemic, whereas other people are so focused on conforming to society they feel drawn to conform to the rhinoceroses as they become the new norm.

Jean

Jean is an impeccably dressed man who feels supremely confident in his own opinions and in his place in society. He feels disappointed in the way Berenger leads his life and feels the need to make his friend like himself. When Berenger questions any of Jean's opinions, Jean takes offense and becomes stubborn, believing himself to be infallible. At first Jean is shocked by the rhinoceros sightings, viewing the animals as a menace to society. However, when Berenger visits Jean in his room, Jean gradually transforms into a rhinoceros as his attitude becomes more pompous and belligerent. It's as if Jean's hostility takes physical form as he turns into a brute beast.

Daisy

Tenderhearted, Daisy and the waitress show the most sympathy for the housewife mourning her dead cat. Also, Daisy shows little interest in the silly argument between Berenger and Jean and instead tells Berenger he shouldn't have made his friend angry. In the office Daisy argues with Botard about her seeing a rhinoceros because Botard is being unreasonable. Daisy knows what she saw. After a rhinoceros destroys the stairs leading to the office, she shows a practical attitude by calling the fire department. Berenger loves Daisy, and she seems to return his affections. She and Berenger end up being the last two people who have resisted changing into rhinoceroses. Perhaps her concern for people instead of the rhinoceroses enables her to resist. However, Daisy will eventually change into a rhinoceros because of her use of love to escape life's problems, specifically the rhinoceros epidemic. In contrast, Berenger tries to use his love for Daisy to block out the epidemic but can't. He continues to be horrified by the transformations and therefore strives to resist them. Daisy, though, wants to escape into a lovely fantasy world. But her fantasy cannot block out the epidemic no matter how hard she tries. In the end she starts to see beauty in the rhinoceroses, not in her love for Berenger.

Dudard

Dudard is an intelligent man who has received a strong education. Influenced by his schooling, Dudard prides himself on seeing events in a detached and objective manner. At first he admits changing into a rhinoceros is not a good thing. However, he also sees being horrified by the transformations as an impediment to understanding the phenomenon. To figure out why the changes are happening, Dudard insists the facts must be gathered and analyzed in a scientific manner. However, Dudard's refusal to feel horror about the rhinoceroses makes him vulnerable to becoming one. In an attempt to be objective, Dudard tries to understand the rhinoceroses from their viewpoint and eventually decides the only way he can truly analyze the phenomenon is by changing into a rhinoceros. Dudard feels compelled to join his friends, who have all become rhinoceroses except for Daisy and Berenger. He lacks the strength to resist conforming because he refuses to see the consequences of conforming.

Logician

The logician is a well-educated man who sees himself as possessing a wisdom that places him above most other people. This wisdom consists of using a type of logical thought process when dealing with any aspect of reality. Because of this attitude, the logician considers himself as a teacher. For example, he spends a large part of Act 1 teaching the old gentleman about syllogisms, which can be absurd. The logician also places himself apart from the masses. When Berenger, Jean, and other townsfolk argue about whether the rhinoceros was African or Asiatic, the logician does not take part in the discussion, but rather just observes it. Later, he presents his logical pearls of wisdom about how the rhinoceros debate should be approached. However, because of his strict use of logic, the logician ends up devising conclusions that contradict reality. The logician concludes that a dog is a cat based on a series of assumed truths. In addition, the logician has no way of dealing with an absurd occurrence, like a rhinoceros charging through the town. His attempted explanations confuse Berenger. Eventually, the logician ends up going along with the trend of people changing into rhinoceroses. Therefore, his use of reason is inadequate in preventing him from transforming into a brute beast.

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