The Anti-Social Plays of Cyrano de Bergerac and Night of the Iguana
Cyrano is clearly a better example of an anti-social play than Night of the Iguana: Not only is this shown by the main characters and their relationship to each other, but more important, it is shown in the themes of these two plays.
Shannon is unmistakably an ideal character for an anti-social play: While Cyrano may be alienated from society, it is, in many ways, through his own choice. For instance, he could have a position at court with his skill with poetry, but instead he chooses to follow his own conscience: "What would you have me do? ... like a creeping vine on a tall tree, crawl upward? ... No thank you!" Cyrano wants to make himself "in all things admirable," and he is: the bravest fighter, the exemplary poet, the quintessential lover, an individualistic moralist (he eats meat on Fridays, but expects to go to Heaven), the finest writer, and the greatest thinker. Shannon, in contrast, is none of these things. A defrocked minister, he is a lover only of teenage girls, and he is neither a poet nor a writer. Shannon is a thinker and a moralist, but these only contribute to his isolation from society: His thoughts on God and morality get him locked out of the church of which he is the pastor.
Cyrano is also in control over his relationships: Ragueneau and Le Bret always follow Cyrano's lead when he condescends to tell them what to do; even Roxane could have been his had he not been hindered by his sense of honor. Shannon, on the other hand, is buffeted this way and that by the stronger characters in Iguana. He seems to have control over his relationship with Maxine, but at the end he acquiesces to her wishes. The only relationship he has any control over is his relationship with Charlotte, and his actions toward her during the play are motivated by paranoia and guilt. Cyrano's motives for remaining aloof from society are admirable; Shannon fails to participate in society because cannot do so.
The theme of Iguana also tends more toward the anti-social direction than does the theme of Cyrano: part of Miller's definition of an anti-social play that "the individual is doomed to frustration when he once gains a consciousness of his own identity." Cyrano's sense of honor, the major component of his identity, is maintained through his conception of himself. He dies with his "white plume" (his honor) intact because he is loyal to his own sense of his identity. All of Shannon's problems, on the other hand, stem from his conception of self: his inability to relate to his congregation, his nervous breakdown, and his inability to keep jobs guiding tours. Shannon's sense of despair stems from his higher ("fantastic level") concerns in a world where the vast majority want only to deal with the lower ("realistic level") concerns expressed in the U2 song Numb: "Don't move/ Don't talk out of time/ Don't think/ Don't worry everything's just...