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The Chairs

Eugène Ionesco

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Old Man -  The protagonist of the play. The Old Man has been married to the Old Woman for seventy-five years, and entertains her nightly with the same story and imitations he has always done. Living on the island, he spends his time with a few hobbies, but mostly devotes himself to his "message" with which he will save humanity.

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Old Woman -  Has been married to the Old Man for seventy-five years. On the island, her only entertainment is listening to her husband's stories and imitations, which she keeps fresh by erasing her memory nightly. She often reminds her husband of what jobs he could have had, and frequently plays the role of the Old Man's surrogate mother.

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Orator -  Since the Old Man cannot express himself well, the Orator—who looks like a pompous 19th-century artist—is scheduled to deliver the Old Man's message. He has an actor's regal bearing and hands out autographs.

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Emperor -  The most esteemed invisible guest the Old Man welcomes. The Emperor is bathed in light, and the Old Man and Old Woman defer to him at all times.
Belle -  The invisible former lover of the Old Man, and the current wife of the Photo-engraver. The Old Man reminisces with Belle about their romantic past and appears to hold on to what could have been.
Photo-engraver -  The husband of Belle. He gives the Old Woman a painting when they arrive, and she is much taken with him, flirting with overt sexuality.
Lady -  The invisible first guest of the Old Man and Old Woman. They engage in casual conversation with Lady.
Colonel -  The second invisible guest, a famous soldier. The Old Woman rebukes him for spilling his cigarettes on the floor, though she is also taken with his grandness, as is the Old Man with his prestige.
Newspapermen and other guests -  The newspapermen and other guests arrive at the end. They are all eager to hear the Orator deliver the Old Man's message.

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