Truth and Order in Ionesco's Bald Soprano
Any sense of order, of sense itself, is shattered and constantly questioned by Eugene Ionesco in his play "The Bald Soprano". A serious challenge is made against an absolute notion of truth. Characters throughout the play, however, continue to struggle to maintain and share a unified and orderly existence. Empiricism is espoused by several characters. They submit that life experience is all that is necessary to establish unshakable order and thus, truth. Mrs. Smith states, "Truth is never found in books, only in life" (29). While this empirical debate underscores the need for an unmediated knowledge of truth, Ionesco simultaneously undermines empiricism as a viable method of attaining it. On a basic level, order diminishes, deteriorates, and virtually disintegrates as the play proceeds.
Empiricism is essentially deductive in nature; a logical premise is established from direct sensory experience. This method calls into question even the most commonplace assumptions. Nothing is accepted as given without sufficient proof. In this manner ordinary events like tying one's shoe or reading the newspaper in the subway are made to seem extraordinary. Each otherwise mundane experience contains a new vitality. Mr. Martin exclaims, "One sees things even more extraordinary every day, when one walks around" (22). The characters seem to lack a certain sense of familiarity (or boredom, perhaps) with such mundane events. Each experience, regardless of size or scope, force the characters to constantly remain in the process of reevaluating and refining the most basic assumptions upon which their lives are based. Mrs. Smith's incessant externalized inner monologue at the opening of the play is a pointed example of this condition. Even intimate relationships with other people cannot be taken for granted. The strangers who come to address one another as Mr. and Mrs. Martin do so only after a rigorous and humorously protracted deductive process.
It is at this point, however, that Ionesco begins to unravel empirical philosophy. Mary, the maid, points out the inherent flaw in reaching absolute conclusions without possessing all of the pertinent information. Because the two strangers fail to attain one crucial piece of information, they arrive at a profound, life-altering, but ultimately erroneous conclusion: that they are married. Mary states, "...all of Donald's system of deduction collapses when it comes up against this last obstacle which destroys his whole theory"...