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Six Characters in Search of an Author

Luigi Pirandello

Act I: Part Three

Act I: Part two

Act I: Part Four

Summary

Mother protests that Father he drove her away. Father replies that he married her for her humility and simplicity. Her "mental deafness" is phenomenal. The Leading Lady, seething that seeing the Leading Man flirt with Step-Daughter, asks the Manager if they plan to rehearse. The Manager wants to hear them out. Father begins, saying that he once had a clerk who befriended Mother. They were kindred souls but incapable of even thinking evil. Step-Daughter accuses Father of thinking it for them. Father protests that he meant to do them good and himself at once. He saw the "mute appeal" in their eyes, their silent conversations about keeping him quiet. Enraged, he sent the clerk away, only to see Mother drift about the house like an abandoned animal taken in out of pity.

Mother cries that Father took her Son. He protests that he only wanted him to grow healthy and strong in the country. All his life he has had "confounded aspirations" toward "a certain moral sanity." Step-Daughter guffaws and imagines the moral sanity from a client of Madame Pace. Father rejoins that this incongruity in his nature proves that he is a "live man" before them. Father expelled Mother not out of boredom but pity. Out of "pure interest" alone he tenderly watched the new family that grew up about her. Step-Daughter fiendishly recalls how he used to watch her after school when she had plaits over her shoulders and knickers longer than her skirts. Father protests her slanderous insinuations. With Mother's departure and the Son's increasing distance from him, the house became empty. He was drawn to the family that had emerged through his will. The thought of Step-Daughter filled the emptiness around him.

The Manager criticizes the tale as being "a bit discursive" and the Son dismisses it as literature. It will not act. Father agrees and the aforementioned only leads up to the drama. As soon as the clerk died, the family fell into poverty and returned to the Father's town, unbeknownst to him. Father could find no traces of them. He was impelled into their drama by his "miserable flesh," the flesh of a man not old enough to do without women and not young enough to seek them without shame. In any case, he is a better man for revealing with the light of intelligence the human bestiality within them all. Take woman, for example; she lures man with her glance and then shuts her eyes upon being grasped, saying "Blind yourself, for I am blind." Step-Daughter rejoins that sometimes she cannot close her eyes. No longer hiding her shame from herself, she dispassionately sees that of the man who has blinded himself without love. Father's intellectual complications and crocodile tears make her sick. The Manager urges them onto the point. Father cautions that a fact is like an empty sack that will not stand unless filled by the "reason and sentiment" that cause its existence.

Analysis

As the somewhat dull-witted Manager will exclaim in Act III, the Father has begun to assume the qualities of the author. Here Father assumes the author function in his exposition of the Characters' tale and function of each player. Before beginning his recitative, however, the Father laments his fall. The play's tormented and occasionally pedantic philosopher, he appears, by his own account at least, torn between the bestiality and "moral sanity" that make him a man. He blames the family's troubles on language, an implicit commentary on the family's competing perspectives on their drama. For the Father, communication requires the listener's translation, making understanding impossible. Thus, for example, the Mother takes his pity as cruelty. What the Father fails to realize is how his speech in its alienated form, as heard by others, might be truer than the one he understands. Once retold, the Father's pity indeed sounds like cruelty, and his "pure interest" appears suspect. To take another example, note how the Father appears pedophilic voyeur in the course of the Step-Daughter insinuating reminiscences. In the Step-Daughter's translation of his account, the Father becomes a longstanding pervert,

In any case, the Father's subsequent recitative then establishes him as an author-figure. Though in the preface Pirandello describes authorship through metaphors of divine and even immaculate conception, speaking of "miracles" and "divine births," such identifications are covered over within the play. There, the Father decidedly appears as the author's double. Particularly, in this case, in his "cerebral" exposition of the Characters' tale—that is, one that traces its narrative trajectories, overarcing structures, and motivations. Much of this account unfolds in indirect discourse ("then he said that") of length that extends beyond conventional theater. Personal histories and inner conflicts are narrated rather than played out in action as usually conceived. Thus the Manager remarks that the Father's narrative will not act. At times, Pirandello opts for an almost novelistic code—as the Son sneers, Father's recitative is literature. Also, in the preface Pirandello recounts having first intended his Characters for a "magnificent novel." As Father assures, the Manager, his entire account provides background alone for the drama they will soon enact—specifically, the traumatic scene in Madame Pace's shop. Thus Pirandello once again lays bare the workings of the stage, revealing that which underpins the spectacle itself. Interestingly he invokes an almost novelistic code to reveal that remains unseen and in some sense inadmissible to that spectacle.

The Father also appears as author within the Characters' drama itself. Note how he speaks of the second household in terms of creation. The family comes into being through his will. His fantasies of the daughter fill the emptiness left by the expulsion of the Mother. It is in expelling his wife and creating the surrogate family that the Father appears most subject to the "Demon of Experiment," a demon that evokes the author's own inspirational daemon. The Father will then reunite with this surrogate family through the traumatic scene around which the Characters' drama crystallizes. As we will see, this narrative of rejection will strangely mirror that between the author and Characters. As with the Father, the rejected characters return to the author most explicitly in his sexual encounter with the Step-Daughter. With the author, however, the scene will not be one of exploitation but seduction. It is not for nothing that the Step-Daughter is seen flirting here with the Leading Man, the Father's double. A certain fantasy of woman is apparent here, the Step-Daughter appearing as the Father's seducer on one side and Father's victim on another. Perhaps this fantasy explains the Father's apparently non-sequitor exclamation about the women who seduces with her glance and then shuts her eyes upon being embraced. At the risk of speculation, one wonders if the author abandoned its characters out of guilt, referring to the fantasy of victimization, and has returned them to stage for that guilt's expiation or exoneration, the fantasy of seduction.

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