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Rhinoceros | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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In Rhinoceros how is Berenger similar to, and different from, Dudard?

At the beginning of Act 3, Berenger and Dudard are opposed to changing into rhinoceroses. They both seem like decent, polite people. For example, at the end of Act 2, Scene 1 Berenger and Dudard try to outdo each other with their politeness. Unlike Jean, Dudard is very understanding and sympathetic toward Berenger, despite their disagreements. Berenger also tries to understand Dudard's viewpoint. However, Berenger and Dudard differ in their opinions regarding the transformation. Berenger hates this transformation, but Dudard, in an effort to be objective, takes a calm view of the matter. Concerning the rhinoceroses, Dudard believes on taking a scientific, rational approach. In contrast, Berenger believes in relying on his intuition, which warns against the transformation.

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros how does Dudard's ability to see the "funny side of things" make him vulnerable to becoming a rhinoceros?

Dudard can see the funny side of things because he sees events from a detached point of view. He takes the view of a person watching a comic play in which a character transforms into a rhinoceros. He refuses to get emotionally involved in the change. Because of this, Dudard says, "It's really rather funny—the fact is, he [Mr. Papillon] turned into a rhinoceros." In contrast, a person like Berenger who gets emotionally involved sees these changes as a tragedy. After all, the rhinoceroses act in a brutal way and are destroying civilization. However, because Dudard sees the rhinoceroses in a lighthearted manner, he is not horrified by the prospect of becoming one. As a result, he allows himself to be convinced to join them.

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros why might Dudard be unable to understand the reason why some people are turning into rhinoceroses?

Dudard does not understand the reason why people are turning into rhinoceroses because of his belief in the infallibility of his scientific approach. For Dudard everything can be explained rationally. He does not question his own approach and believes it is superior to other approaches, such as Berenger's intuition and emotion. However, his own conceit blinds him to the fact that other people, such as Jean and the logician, have changed into rhinoceroses because of their conceit. Dudard's absolute faith in his own views is part of the cause or reason for the transformations. In the end Dudard's confidence in scientific analysis entraps him. In an attempt to be objective, he decides the best way to analyze the transformations is by becoming a rhinoceros.

In Rhinoceros how is Dudard similar to, and different from, Botard?

Dudard and Botard are similar because they both rely on reason and scientific analysis, and they both believe their views are correct. In the end both of them change into rhinoceroses. However, Dudard takes a detached, unemotional view of reality. In contrast, Botard backs his views with a fervent passion. Dudard states, "His [Botard's] stand seems to me entirely dictated by hatred of his superiors." So Botard definitely believes in good and evil. His views are good, and his superiors' views are evil. Dudard, though, takes a completely objective approach, and to accomplish this, he disregards any notion of evil, stating, "The evil! That's just a phrase! Who knows what is evil and what is good?"

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros how are Dudard's and Daisy's view of normalcy different from Berenger's view of normalcy, and how do their respective views affect them?

For Dudard and Daisy, normalcy depends on the number of people who accept a certain belief and practice a certain behavior. If a significant majority act in the same way, then this way of acting is normal. So for both of them, there is no absolute normal. Dudard asks, "Who can say where the normal stops and the abnormal begins?" When everyone has changed into rhinoceroses except for Daisy and Berenger, Daisy says, "Perhaps we're the abnormal ones." In the case of fascism, if the majority believe in acting like brutal fascists, then Daisy and Dudard would believe this way of acting must be normal for humans. Because of this perspective, Daisy and Dudard become rhinoceroses. Berenger, however, believes there is a standard of normalcy for humans. If he was in an area where everyone had the plague except himself, Berenger would consider the way his disease-free body was functioning as normal. Because of this, Berenger states, "For a man to turn into a rhinoceros is abnormal beyond question." However, when everyone has undergone the transformation, Berenger begins to feel the desire to be like them. He sees them as beautiful and himself as ugly. He senses the draw of relative normalcy—in this case humans looking and acting like rhinoceroses. Even so, he resists this temptation. His sense of what a normal human should be overcomes his desire to join the majority when he says defiantly, "I'm the last man left, and I'm staying that way."

In Rhinoceros why does Berenger believe that being good makes people vulnerable to becoming rhinoceroses?

According to Ionesco, good people are vulnerable to becoming rhinoceroses because they often focus on appearing good in the eyes of others. Jean prides himself on his high moral standards. He knows people admire him for these standards and feels compelled to make others adopt them. However, in reality, Jean tries to coerce Berenger into acting in a "good" way. Such coercion is not good but cruel and condescending. When people start to turn into rhinoceroses, Jean realizes he can drop the façade of acting good and let his vicious side out. He knows the rhinoceroses will view this side of him as good. Also, good people like Dudard pride themselves on sympathizing with, and understanding all points of view. So even if one way of acting is destructive, these people would believe in being tolerant of these actions. Berenger views such understanding as misguided. When Dudard runs to join the rhinoceroses, Berenger tells him, "You're too good-hearted, you're human." Finally, good people are very concerned about doing their duty. When the majority become rhinoceroses, good people feel their duty is to become rhinoceroses, as when Dudard states, "It's my duty to stick by them [the rhinoceroses]."

In Rhinoceros what is the purpose of the distinction between the rhinoceroses with one horn and those with two horns?

Ionesco is satirizing how people take sides on trivial issues, which divides them but also makes them all similar. By doing this they create a serious problem. In Act 1 Jean and Berenger argue about whether the rhinoceros they saw had one or two horns. Townsfolk get involved in the argument, taking one side or the other. Meanwhile, they are ignoring the housewife grieving for her dead cat and the phenomenon of a rhinoceros rampaging through town. The people involved in the argument seem more concerned about proving themselves right than about more humane matters. In later acts Ionesco has Berenger refer to this argument, thereby emphasizing how people focus on trivial disputes while ignoring the larger problem. For example, when Mrs. Boeuf claims a rhinoceros chased her to the legal office, Berenger asks, "How many horns did it have?" People's focus on being right leads to division. They become so concerned about defending their perceptions that they don't care what or whom they destroy. Because of this righteousness, people transform into a mass. They all look similar because they all have the same belligerent attitude. The only difference is that half have one horn and the other half have two horns, which basically makes no difference at all. So the only distinctive quality that transfers when they become rhinoceroses is their determination to prove their position on a subject of little importance.

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros how does Ionesco use sound and lighting to convey the seduction of conformity?

Ionesco has the harsh stampeding and breathing of the rhinoceroses turn into a musical sound. The narrator states, "All these disquieting sounds are ... somehow rhythmical, making a kind of music." Eventually, the noises of the rhinoceroses become even melodious. Through the use of lighting, Ionesco has heads of rhinoceroses appear and disappear on the wall. As they are shown, their monstrous appearance takes on a type of beauty. Soon the heads are seen on all of the walls of Berenger's apartment. After Daisy leaves, the narrator says, "The rhinoceros heads ... have become very beautiful." Through this use of sound and lighting, Daisy and Berenger feel drawn to join the rhinoceroses. Daisy says, "It's their way of dancing. They're beautiful." Later, Berenger says, "I'm not good-looking ... They're the good-looking ones."

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros in what ways is Daisy's and Berenger's relationship based on a romantic fantasy and not on reality?

Ionesco has Daisy and Berenger say several romantic platitudes to each other. Daisy says, "I'll never leave you alone again." Berenger claims, "I'll be brave and strong." The author has Daisy and Berenger come up with ways to distance themselves from the rhinoceroses which makes it seem as if they are in a dream world. For instance, they plan to take long walks along the Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens. However, such a plan is ridiculous because the rhinoceroses would be swarming through those areas! Also, Daisy makes the amazing declaration that no one wishes them harm. However, the rhinoceroses have been shown to be brutal animals who have no qualms about destroying anything.

In Act 3 of Rhinoceros what are the effects of fascist propaganda?

As the rhinoceros epidemic becomes a mass movement, Berenger and Daisy are surrounded by images and sounds of the rhinoceroses. By showing this Ionesco conveys the effects of fascist propaganda. Through communication systems, such as the telephone and the radio, Berenger and Daisy can only hear the noises of the rhinoceroses. In a similar way fascist governments dominated the media to such an extent that their voices were the only voices heard. Also, the images of the rhinoceroses begin to look beautiful, even though the rhinoceroses themselves have been shown to be brutal, destructive beasts. Likewise, fascist governments used propaganda to present their regimes as something noble and for the people while often committing atrocities against various groups that opposed them. Also, like propaganda, the sound and images of the rhinoceroses have strong powers of persuasion. Daisy shows this when she becomes intoxicated by the rhinoceroses and all they represent.

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