What does Pirandello's play say about the nature of reality? What is reality? Is art more real than life? How much does one's own perception determine what reality is?
By Lisa Bauman
Pirandello believes that gritty, honest life is far nobler than drama. It is the closest thing that can be achieved as reality. This is why the Father (whom takes the opinion of Pirandello) cannot understand why an actor could ever be convincing. He doesn't necessarily object to having the actor play his part, but he objects that he could. He finds it insufficient. This is why the Father says the actor would have to "absorb" him into himself to convey the person of the Father. The Father believes the spectacle of having an actor pretend to be him on stage so large of a miscommunication that even the critics will take note (Pirandello).
"THE FATHER: Exactly! It will be difficult to act me as I really am. The effect will be … according as to how he supposes I am, as he senses me -- if he does sense me -- and not as I inside of myself feel myself to be. It seems to me then that account should be taken of this by everyone whose duty it may become to criticize us . . . (Pirandello)."
Pirandello believes that reality is relative. It is different for every person and based on their experiences. Reality is more artful than art, because it is real. His form of drama is considered the "theatre of the absurd" where authors attempt "to convey … that reality is itself unreal. In their plays human beings often portrayed as dupes, clowns who, although not without dignity, are at the mercy of forces that are inscrutable (Twentieth-Century Drama)."
By far the best and most distinct phrase in the play that explains Pirandello's idealism is:
"But don't you see that the whole trouble lies here. In words, words. Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do (Jacobus 572)."
Again, the best way to look more closely into Pirandello's mind is to listen closely to the philosophies of the Father. The Father expresses Pirandello's ideology throughout the entire play. He says: "if you are really conscious of the fact that your reality is a mere transitory and fleeting illusion, taking this form today and that tomorrow, according to the conditions, according to your will, your sentiments (Pirandello)."
Pirandello believes that even his ideals are his own reality; there is no real true or false. For this reason, he pokes fun at himself throughout the whole play. In the final act Pirandello even goes to the point of bluntness when the Manager says: "Nonsense! … it isn't a thing … which one can believe seriously … it seems to me you are trying to imitate the manner of a certain author whom I heartily detest (Pirandello)." He pokes fun at himself for three purposes: to keep those who are unconvinced able to hear his message, create humor, and remain consistent with the philosophy he is preaching.
Jacobus, Lee. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama. 6th. ed. Boston, New York: Bedfords/St. Martin's, 2009. 570-591. Print.
Pirandello, Luigi . Six Characters in Search of an Author. New York: 1921. Web. http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/lp/six.htm.
** An assignment for Eng105, Introduction to Drama, Fall Term 2011, Portland Community College