Short summary - Rhinoceros - Eugène Ionesco

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Rhinoceros
Eugène Ionesco

A square in a provincial town. The shopkeeper hisses indignantly after the woman with the cat - The housewife has gone shopping in another store. Jean and Beranger appear almost simultaneously - nevertheless Jean reproaches his friend for being late. Both sit at a table in front of the cafe. Beranger looks bad: he can hardly stand on his feet, yawns, his suit is dented, his shirt is dirty, his shoes are not cleaned. Jean enthusiastically lists all these details - he is clearly ashamed of his weak-willed friend. Suddenly, the stomp of a running huge beast is heard, and then a prolonged roar. The waitress screams in horror - it's a rhino! A frightened Housewife runs in, frantically clutching the cat to her chest. The elegantly dressed old gentleman hides in the shop, unceremoniously pushing the owner. A logician in a boater hat presses himself against the wall of the house. When the stomping and roar of a rhinoceros subside in the distance, everyone gradually comes to their senses. The logician states that a reasonable person should not succumb to fear. The Shopkeeper insinuatingly consoles the Housewife, praising his wares along the way. Jean is indignant: a wild animal on the streets of the city is unheard of! Only Beranger is sluggish and sluggish with a hangover, but when he sees a young blonde Daisy, he jumps up, knocking over his glass on Jean's trousers. Meanwhile, the Logician is trying to explain to the Old Master the nature of the syllogism: all cats are mortal, Socrates is mortal, therefore Socrates is a cat. The shocked Old Master says that his cat's name is Socrates. Jean tries to explain to Beranger the essence of a correct lifestyle: you need to arm yourself with patience, intelligence and, of course, completely give up alcohol - in addition, you need to shave every day, thoroughly clean your shoes, walk in a fresh shirt and a decent suit. Shocked, Beranger says that he will visit the city museum today and will go to the theater in the evening to watch Ionesco's play, which is now so much talked about. The Logician approves of the Old Master's early successes in the field of mental activity. Jean approves of Beranger's good intentions in the field of cultural leisure. But here all four are drowned out by a terrible rumble. Shout "ah, rhino!" is repeated by all the participants in the scene, and only Beranger breaks out a cry "ah, Daisy!" Immediately, a heartbreaking meow is heard, and the Housewife appears with a dead cat in her arms. An exclamation of “ah, poor pussy!” Is heard from all sides, and then an argument begins about how many rhinos there were. Jean states that the first was Asian with two horns, and the second African with one. Beranger, unexpectedly for himself, objects to his friend: the dust stood in a pillar, it was impossible to see anything, and even more so to count the horns. Under the groans of the Housewife, the skirmish ends with a quarrel: Jean calls Beranger a drunkard and announces a complete break in relations. The debate continues: the shopkeeper claims that only the African rhino has two horns. The logician proves that the same creature cannot be born in two different places. Frustrated Beranger scolds himself for intemperance - there was no need to go on a rampage and anger Jean! Having ordered a double portion of cognac out of grief, he cowardly refuses the intention to go to the museum.
Legal office. Beranger's colleagues are vigorously discussing the latest news. Daisy claims she saw the rhino with her own eyes, and Dudard shows the note in the incident department. Botar declares that all these are stupid stories, and a serious girl should not repeat them - being a man of progressive convictions, he does not trust the corrupt newspapermen who write about some crushed cat instead of exposing racism and ignorance. Beranger appears, who, as usual, is late for work. The head of the office, Papillon, calls on everyone to get down to business, but Botar cannot calm down: he accuses Dudar of malicious propaganda in order to whip up mass psychosis. Suddenly Papillon notices the absence of one of the employees - Beth. Frightened Madame Beth runs in: she reports that her husband is ill, and a rhino is chasing her from the house itself. The wooden staircase collapses under the weight of the beast. Crowded overhead, everyone stares at the rhinoceros. Botar declares that this is a dirty machination of the authorities, and Madame Beth suddenly cries out - she recognizes her husband in the thick-skinned animal. He answers her with a frenzied gentle roar. Madame Beth jumps on his back, and the rhino gallops home. Daisy calls firefighters to evacuate the office. It turns out that firefighters are in great demand today: there are already seventeen rhinos in the city, and according to rumors - even thirty-two. Botar threateningly declares that he will expose the traitors responsible for this provocation. A fire truck arrives: employees go down the escape ladder. Dudard invites Beranger to pull a glass, but he refuses: he wants to visit Jean and, if possible, make peace with him.
Jean's apartment: he lies on the bed, not responding to the knock of Beranger. The old man neighbor explains that yesterday Jean was very out of sorts. Finally Jean lets Beranger in, but immediately goes back to bed. Beranger stutters out apologizing for yesterday. Jean is clearly ill: he speaks in a hoarse voice, breathes heavily and listens to Beranger with growing irritation. The news of Bef's transformation into a rhinoceros finally pisses him off - he begins to rush, from time to time hiding in the bathroom. From his increasingly vague cries, one can understand that nature is above morality - people need to return to primitive purity. Beranger notices with horror how his friend gradually turns green and a lump like a horn grows on his forehead. Once again running into the bathroom, Jean begins to roar - no doubt about it, it's a rhino! With difficulty closing the angry beast with a key, Beranger calls for help from a neighbor, but instead of the old man he sees another rhinoceros. And outside the window, a whole herd is crushing tabloid benches. The bathroom door cracks, and Beranger takes flight with a desperate cry: "Rhinos!"
Beranger's apartment: he lies on the bed with his head tied. From the street, there is a stomp and a roar. There is a knock at the door - it is Dudard who has come to visit a colleague. Happy questions about health terrify Beranger - he constantly imagines that a bump is growing on his head, and his voice becomes hoarse. Dudard tries to calm him down: in fact, there is nothing terrible in turning into a rhinoceros - in fact, they are not evil at all, and they have some kind of natural innocence. Many decent people have completely disinterestedly agreed to become rhinos - for example, Papillon. True, Botar condemned him for apostasy, but this was dictated rather by hatred of the authorities than by genuine convictions. Beranger is glad that there are still die-hard people - if only I could find a Logic who would be able to explain the nature of this madness! It turns out that the Logician has already turned into a beast - he can be recognized by a boater hat pierced by a horn. Beranger is depressed: at first Jean is such a bright nature, a champion of humanism and a healthy lifestyle, and now a Logician! Daisy appears with the news that Botar has become a rhinoceros - according to him, he wished to keep up with the times. Beranger states that it is necessary to fight brutality - for example, to place rhinos in special pens. Dudard and Daisy are unanimously opposed: the Society for the Protection of Animals will be against it, and besides, everyone has friends and close relatives among the rhinos. Dudard, clearly distressed that Daisy favors Beranger, makes a sudden decision to become a rhino. Beranger tries in vain to dissuade him: Dudard leaves, and Daisy, looking out the window, says that he has already joined the herd. Beranger realizes that Daisy's love could have saved Dudar. Now there are only two of them left, and they must take care of each other. Daisy is frightened: a roar is heard from the telephone receiver, a roar is broadcast on the radio, the floors are shaking due to the stomping of the rhino tenants. Gradually the roar becomes more melodic, and Daisy suddenly declares that the rhinos are great - they are so cheerful, energetic, it is pleasant to look at them! Beranger, unable to restrain himself, slaps her in the face, and Daisy leaves for the beautiful musical rhinos. Beranger looks at himself in the mirror with horror - how ugly a human face! If only he could grow a horn, acquire a wonderful dark green skin, learn to roar! But the last man can only defend himself, and Beranger looks around in search of a gun. He doesn't give up.