Six Characters in Search of an Author | Study Guide

Luigi Pirandello

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Six Characters in Search of an Author | Quotes


The mystery of artistic creation is the same as that of birth.

Narrator, Author's Preface

Pirandello can't explain why he came up with these particular Characters. Their creation is a process he can't fully understand or control. The word mystery implies something sacred and inexplicable. Earlier in the Preface, Pirandello personifies the figure of Fantasy as a maidservant who brings him fully formed characters. This quote challenges the traditional assumption that authors build characters around a plot and with a specific purpose in mind. Pirandello thinks the creative process is much more fluid.


Less real, perhaps; but more true!

Father, Act 1

The Father distinguishes between the concepts of "real" and "true." Reality, he suggests, can be different from truth. The Characters aren't "real" like the Actors, since the Characters don't have separate lives off the stage. But the Characters are timeless, and their story doesn't change. Just as they're more "true" than the Actors, art is more "true" than real life—art conveys universal truths.


The man will die, the writer, the instrument of creation; the creature will never die!

Father, Act 1

With this quote Pirandello considers the legacy of art. Characters outlive their authors and take on new lives in readers' imaginations. They can acquire meanings the author never intended them to have. By describing the author as "the instrument of creation," the Father diminishes the author's power. An author is only an instrument or vehicle for the art he or she creates. The dilemmas facing authors and characters are also different. Authors will confront the tragedy of death and die themselves one day, while characters struggle with the challenges of eternal life.


Each of us has, inside him, a world of things.

Father, Act 1

Pirandello believed individuals had "a world" of multiple personalities and possibilities within them. The Father believes people bring their own thoughts, experiences, assumptions, prejudices, and understanding, or their "world of things," to any situation. But everyone's inner world is different, and everyone sees the outer world differently. The Father thinks two people can't agree on a definition of reality, since each person's reality will be based on his unique outlook.


I'm a character that, dramatically speaking, remains unrealized.

Son, Act 1

An "unrealized" character in a drama is usually one who is underdeveloped, whose story arc is never completed, and whose character traits aren't clearly defined. The Son describes himself as "unrealized" because he won't participate in the Characters' drama. He is a Character without a plot. His remark shows awareness of his role in the author's process, an awareness characters don't usually possess.


Every man acts the part assigned to him—by himself or others—in this life.

Father, Act 1

The Father observes that real life contains an element of performance, even offstage. The Characters' roles are relational—they're fathers, stepdaughters, and sons, not just people. Their roles are assigned by their position in the family unit. Even though the Son wants nothing to do with the family, he is still the Son. The Director and members of the stage crew play the roles required by their jobs. The Father asks how these roles are different from the parts the Actors play. Everyone has certain responsibilities or scripts to follow onstage and off.


Our motto is: truth up to a certain point!

Director, Act 2

The Director believes some actions can't be shown onstage. Even though the Stepdaughter insists her sexual encounter with the Father is the truth, the Director won't dramatize it. He knows theater audiences expect to see a manipulated version of reality. They want plays to be lifelike, but not too lifelike—nothing boring, unsavory, or confrontational can happen onstage. The Director reveals how plays often manufacture a version of truth to please an audience. In Pirandello's relatively conservative 1920s Italy, theatergoers would have been shocked by open incest and sexuality on stage. The Characters' drama challenges the idea that playwrights and actors need to shield theatergoers from witnessing certain events and subtly addresses the ethics of censorship.


I am alive and present—always, in every moment of my torment.

Mother, Act 2

The Mother begs the Director not to stage the Father and Stepdaughter's meeting. She'll experience the scene again as if she were living it for the first time. The Mother doesn't have a notion of past, present, and future. She relives events constantly, such as her Son's rejection and her younger children's deaths. Pirandello uses this quote in the Preface to demonstrate the Mother's perpetual pain. While humans can often move on and put the past behind them, characters can't. They're trapped in their stories. The Mother's crisis is existential—she struggles with how to live in her unendingly cruel universe. But only the eternal world of art can do that.


What for you is an illusion, to be created, is for us our unique reality.

Father, Act 3

The Father explains how the word illusion trivializes the Characters' plight. The drama the Characters present on the stage isn't a story they invented. It's their life. They can't control the events or choose a different outcome. The Actors, meanwhile, have the freedom to snap out of their roles and to redirect the story.


I'm inviting you to emerge from this game.

Father, Act 3

The Father encourages the Actors to think of their craft as more than a game. Instead he believes they should see the theater as a solid, more trustworthy version of reality than the reality represented by their own experiences. Both theater and life are distinct realities shaping each other.


A character, sir, may always ask a man who he is.

Father, Act 3

This quote encapsulates how art asks questions, challenges worldviews, and helps people learn about themselves. Father is presented as the authority who can confront a man with important questions. While human beings have fluid identities, characters in a play have fixed identities. They reflect human behavior and fill an important function of art—getting readers, audiences, and even authors to consider their own lives. Pirandello believed his Characters had something important to relay to him.


You should distrust your reality.

Father, Act 3

The Father argues that the Actors and the Director shouldn't take their own stable reality for granted. They may change their minds, or their ideas may evolve. A change in inner perspective represents a change in outer reality. When people think differently, they see things differently. People can inhabit many realities and play many roles in their lives.


Do you think it's possible for us to live before [in front of] a mirror?

Son, Act 3

In Pirandello's concept of "mirror theater," characters become a mirror reflecting their observers, whether those observers are the actors who portray them, readers of the script, or theater audiences. A mirror is confrontational—a way to see the self through a different lens.

In this scene the Son is struggling to define his sense of self. Like the other Characters, he is troubled by the thought of the Actors pretending to be him. In their performance he sees himself reflected in "an unrecognizable grimace"—an image denying his existence.


Fiction indeed! Reality, gentlemen, reality! Reality!

Father, Act 3

As the Actors witness the violent onstage death of a Character, they're confused and unsure whether the Boy pretended to shoot himself or is really dead. The Father insists that what they saw was "reality" with real stakes and real consequences. His quote shows the Characters' desperate goal to get the Actors to take their lives seriously. The Boy's death is never determined to be "fiction" or "reality," but the distinction has become less clear in the play. Whether an event is fiction or reality depends on the point of view.


Things like this don't happen to me! They've made me lose a whole day!

Director, Act 3

The Director is stunned by the chaos the Characters unleash on his stage. They have exposed his profession as something entirely different from what he thought it was, and they've shaken his sense of self. But he immediately snaps back into the real world. His quote shows that the Characters' lessons about illusion and reality haven't given the Director a new understanding. He is just the way he was at the beginning—busy, professional, short-tempered, and determined. This conclusion locates the play in an absurd, self-reflective place that completes the work's circularity.

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