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UBC Theses and Dissertations

La mort : étude thématique du théâtre de Genet Ballantyne, Patricia Lynn


The theme of death underlying Jean Genet's works is particularly evident in his theatre where it appears in manifold forms. The presence of this theme in four of his plays, "Haute Surveillance", "Les Bonnes", "Le Balcon" and "Les Nègres" will be discussed in the following study where it may be seen that this central aspect of his work expresses itself through his choice of characters and plot. Even the decor reveals that Death is ever present. The driving force which motivates his characters' actions and creates the plot lies buried deep in their unconscious, therefore a psychoanalytic approach, based on Freud's theory of the death instinct, has been used in this study. The aggressive tendencies produced by the death instinct in Genet's characters can be divided into two categories: destruction of the other and self-destruction. Murder, suicide or human sacrifice result when the death instinct holds full sway in the character's ego, while repetitious suffering in the form of sadism or masochism prevails when the full force of the death instinct is mitigated by the presence of its complementary opposite, Eros. Although the acts of the characters vary significantly, it becomes apparent that three underlying causes are common to the aggressive behaviour of all the characters studied in the plays. They are ignorance of the "self" and the nature of others, fear (accompanied by a feeling of impotence) caused by this ignorance and the impossible wish to dominate others and one's own mortality. It mould seem that the tragedy of Genet's characters lies in the fact that they never realize their own capacity for self-determination. Consequently, their actions are all in vain because they only lead to the senseless repetition of suffering or premature death.

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