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Six Characters in Search of an Author

Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

In the play's preface, Pirandello confesses an aversion to the use of symbol in the theater. If we take the term loosely, however, we can identify a number of symbolic structures and objects in the play. First, as noted above, the play itself is symbolic of, or more accurately, an allegory for, the theater itself. Second, some of Six Characters's readers have suggested the symbolic properties of the Characters themselves. Critic Diane Thompson, for example, believes that the play echoes the Italian tradition of the commedia del 'arte, in which the mask designates the character's eternal quality in opposition to the transient "naked face" of the actors. The mask would give the impression of figures fixed forever in its own fundamental emotion: that is, Remorse for the Father, Revenge for the Stepdaughter, Scorn for the Son, Sorrow for the Mother.

We might also look toward certain objects in the play as bearing symbolic properties. For example, the mirror, screen, and window that the Step-Daughter calls for in the staging of the Pace scene indicate her obsession with spectacle and, more specifically, her self-image as that spectacle's object. The vein she recalls in her sexual encounter with the Father incarnates the disgusting excessiveness of the scene, excess that the Manager would keep off-stage at all costs. Pirandello also makes use of a numbers regarding the relation between reason and sentiment. Memorably, the Manager points to the Leading Man's egg- shells in Mixing It Up! as symbolizing psychology of empty reason without its counterpart. Similarly, the Father imagines a fact as an "empty sack" unless filled without these two qualities.