www.linz09.at.jpegPicnic on the Battlefield

Fernando Arrabal (born August 11, 1932) is a Spanish (living in France) poet playwright and novelist, who frequently wrote in the absurdist tradition.

Theater of the Absurd came about as a reaction to World War II. It took the basis of existential philosophy and combined it with dramatic elements to create a style of theatre which presented a world which doesn’t make sense and is futile.

In studying this piece we will look at two things:

1. Literature In Context: Genre

2. Understanding Author's Argument

Literature in Context: Genre

While studying Alicia Partnoy's "Homespun Love" we discussed the necessity of understanding the context of a work of literature. I raised the point that understanding the perspective Partnoy wrote from, as a former political prisoner, was indispensable in understanding her writing. Similarly, in studying "Girl" we discussed how cultural context can inform our understanding of a work as well. For Picnic on a Battlefield, we must understand the genre of Theater of the Absurd to understand the perspective of the piece.

Absurdist drama works to:
-Show that life does not make intrinsic sense. It does this by having non traditional dramatic structure, frequently confusing, mirror, or repetitive dialogue or plot elements.
-Show the futility of life by not providing a satisfying resolution. They also don't allow characters to achieve enlightenment or be fulfilled in their pursuits.
-Mocks life by showing important things, relationships, war, death, love, the pursuit of meaning in a ridiculous light.

Only by understanding the playwrights choice of genre do we understand the stylistic choices and the meaning of his work. As Zapo and Zepo are mirror images of each other caught in a fruitless and pointless war, we are taken on a cyclical journey that only results in death. There is no lesson learned, goal gained, or enlightenment reached as is required for traditional dramatic structure.

Understanding Author's Argument

As we have with previous literature, we continue to ask questions in order to better understand what the author is trying to say with his/her piece.

Questions we can ask about Arrabal's short might include:
1. What is the significance of death in the play? (the stretcher carriers specifically)
2. Why do Zapo and Zepo look the same with the exception of their outfits?
3. What does the general represent?
4. Why are Zapo's parents so blase about coming onto the battlefield?
5. Why are they so nice/civil to Zepo when they capture him?
6. What is the significance of the setting?
7. What is the significance of the evolution of war (from horses to no horses)?