Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Absurdism and Hyperreality: Bruner and Six Characters in Search of an Author

In high school, absurdist theater (such as Samuel Beckett) confused the begeezus out of me.  Reading for a linear story with a literal meaning made Waiting for Godot nothing more than a great frustration.

Though absurdist work still perplexes me at times, I have learned since then that applying a theoretical lens can help extrapolate sense from the madness.  Particularly in the play Six Characters in Search of an Author, Bruner's concept on the narrative construction of reality transforms the otherwise ridiculous in to the hyper-real, thereby reinforcing the absurdness inherent to reality.

 As the Father in the play says, "Oh sir, you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities, which strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true." In that quote, the Father points out the absurdity in normalcy as well as the fact that, being normal, those absurdities need no other credibility, as they constitute truth. In theater, achieving versimilitude of reality is a highly sought after and hard won end goal. The Father indicates that the same "truthiness" of reality is implicit. This becomes the character's argument for an author; that since reality is constructed and measured by the same features as theater, only in theater, the construction is made explicit.

The Father's next line continues the relation between the real and the staged, "I say that to reverse the ordinary process may well be considered madness: that is, to create credible situations, in order that they may appear true. But permit me to observe that if this be madness, it the sole raison detre of your profession gentlemen." Madness, as the father uses the term, goes against that which is ordinary, or normal, and yet reinforces it.

Here is where Bruner's narrative theory illuminates the play. In his article The Narrative Construction of Reality he states the narrative form "not only represent[s] but constitute[s] reality...operates as an instrument of mind in the construction of reality" (5-6). The idea that narrative form constructs reality is what propels and justifies the six characters to seek an author. The only tool that the characters lacked was the physical mind to construct their reality. All other aspects of their lives were attained through verisimilitude of their narrative form.


1 comment:

  1. Nice to bring the Bruner to bear on Six Characters. I never thought about how perfectly they align!

    ReplyDelete

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