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Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello

Analysis of Major Characters

Character List

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

The Father

The Father is a "fattish" man in his fifties with thin, reddish hair, a thick moustache, and piercing, blue oval eyes. He is "alternatively mellifluous and violent." Along with the Step-Daughter, he is the Character who most fervently insists on the staging of the Characters' drama. In some sense, he figures as the drama's progenitor, having produced the situation of the step- household, a situation that culminates in an inadvertent sexual encounter with his Step-Daughter. Though the Father ostensibly seeks remorse, Pirandello intimates a number of times that a "deal" has perhaps been struck between the Father and Manager, the play's two authorial figures. Thus the Son and Step- Daughter warn against reading the play according to his word alone. As the Manager laments, the Father is the play's philosopher, continually stepping out of his role to sermonize about ideas of the inner workings of the Characters' drama and the relations between the Characters and Actors. His excessive tendency for preaching would mark him as a roughly drawn character and as a double for the author. In particular, the Father insists on the "reality" of the Characters, a reality he poses over and against that of the company. Unlike the "nobody" Actors, the Characters are "real somebodies" because their reality—the reality of both their drama and role—remains fixed and independent of the vagaries of time. This reality has little to do with the plausibility nor the codes of the "actable." Thus, both he and the Step-Daughter relate the sense of estrangement in seeing their reality rendered by the Actors.

The Step-Daughter

Dashing, impudent, and beautiful, the Step-Daughter also seeks the realization of the Characters' drama. Her "reality" as a Character is a fixed, grimacing mask of vengeance. She seeks stage-life to revenge herself on the Father and she appears in two principle forms that define a certain fantasy of woman. As noted above, she and the Father are the major players in their drama's traumatic scene: the inadvertent sexual encounter that precipitates the encounter between the original and surrogate families in the back of Madame Pace's shop. Exploited despite her mourning for her father, the Step-Daughter appears here as victim. At the same time, on-stage she appears seductive, exhibitionistic, and dangerously cruel.

As she tells the Manager, the Father's perversity is responsible for hers. Her perversity emerges in particular with her obsession with the spectacle of the Characters' drama. Whereas the Father offers their play as a more "cerebral drama," tracing its players' motivations, its overarching structures, and its narrative trajectories, she will conjure its scenes in speech, calling for its trappings forth on the stage. Many of these props concern the visual: the mirror, the window, and the screen. The Step-Daughter also functions as object of this spectacle. Though dressed, like the other members of her immediate family, in mourning for their own father, she wears her clothes with "great elegance." For example, she brashly erupts into a cabaret-style performance of "Prenez garde à Tchou-Tchin-Tchou": her display would lure the company into their drama's realization. More explicitly does the Step-Daughter reveal her obsession with her self-image in her memory of the author. As she tells the company, she strove most to seduce him from the shadows about his writing table. In her vision of this seduction, she progressively exiles the other Characters from the room, ultimately leaving her alone to illuminate the darkness. With the Characters' drama, the Step-Daughter would become a star. For her, the drama's stage-life would realize her self-image above all.

The Mother

Dressed in modest black and a thick widow's veil, the Mother appears crushed by an "intolerable weight of shame and abasement." Her face is "wax-like," and her eyes always downcast. She bears the anguish of the Characters' drama, serving as its horrified spectator. She is the consummate figure of grief, mourning the Characters' inexorable fate. As Pirandello notes in his preface to the play, the Mother would incarnate nature without mind in her suffering—she suffers the torture of what has befallen the family without cognizing it as the Father does. In this respect, she is not even a woman, she first and foremost a mother in anguish. Caught, like the other Characters, in the unchanging and inexorable reality of both her drama and role. She laments that she suffers her torture at every moment; her lot as mourner is fixed for eternity. The two mute children, accessories of sorts, underline her function as an image of grief. Particularly agonizing to her is the aloofness of her estranged Son, whom she will approach to no avail throughout the play.

The Son

A tall, severe man of twenty-two, the Son appears contemptuous, supercilious, and humiliated by his fellow Characters. Having been grown up in the country, he is estranged from his family and, in his aloofness, will cause the elimination of the stepchildren within the Characters' drama. Ironically then will he ultimately appear as witness to the two younger children's demise. His role as a character lies in his ashamed refusal to participate in the household and the Characters' spectacle, a spectacle to which he nevertheless remains bound. More specifically, he appears to be structurally tied within the Character's drama to the Step-Daughter, whose look of scorn and exhibitionism fixes him in his guilt, shame, and reserve. In his aversion to spectacle, he in particular attacks the Actors who would imitate them. For him, the Actor-as-mirror, in its necessary inability to reflect the Character as he sees himself, freezes the Character's self-image and renders it grotesque. The Son also protests to the Manager that he remains an unrealized character, perhaps one that even stands for the will of the author in objecting to their drama's staging. As the Father counters, however, his unrealized nature is his own situation in both the Characters' drama and its attempted rehearsal on-stage; his aloofness within the drama makes him the drama's very hinge. The Son's position as an unrealized character appears most clearly in the scene he would refuse to play with his Mother in Act III, a scene that is actually a non-scene. The Mother enters his bedroom, and the Son, in his aversion to scenes, flees to the garden to witness his step-siblings' deaths.

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