In Six Characters in Search of an Author, Pirandello sets out to prove that the subjective is inescapable. He proposed that human beings are isolated from one another, and can never communicate the full truth of their identity to each other. The play portrays various power struggles, between the Characters and Actors, and amongst the Characters themselves.
The Characters battle for the stage, in order to impose their view of reality and experience on the others. The Stepdaughter wants to possess the stage to allow the full communication of her experience, but the Father argues one of the key points of the play:
And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.
In other words, the receiver of the communication will project his or her own values onto what is being said. The play’s purpose is to depict the irresolvable nature of this dilemma.
Pirandello used this play to depict a scenario where the manager would misinterpret and distort the play against the author’s intentions. He satirizes this scenario at several points in the play, first when the Manager complains, “I never could stand rehearsing with the author present. Hes never satisfied. This expresses the conflicts involved while making the transition from writing to performance. At the same time though, he accepts that the theatre cannot accommodate the full complex truth of a situation, when the Stepdaughter argues over the precise wording of her lines, and when the scenery is being prepared for the brothel scene: Manager: (to the Property Man)Just have a look, and see if there isnt a sofa or a divan in the wardrobeProperty Man: There’s the green one.
Stepdaughter: No, no! Green wont do. It was yellow, ornamented with flowers-very large! And most comfortable!
Property Man: There isnt one like that.
Manager: It doesnt matter. Use the one weve got.
Stepdaughter: Doesnt matter? Its most important!
Manager: We’re only trying it now. Please don’t interfere.
Six Characters shows that perception is constantly changing, both over time and amongst different people, and sets out to depict this instability and state of flux on the stage. At no point can the audience relax, as Pirandello systematically disrupts the action, to create and sustain the illusion of reality. As the Son solemnly relates the events of the past, with the full attention of the audience and Actors, there is a sudden revolver shot, and the theatre is thrown into pandemonium. T
he audience or reader is repeatedly drawn in, then pulled away from the action.
The play uses aspects of naturalism, such as the realistic stage setting, behavior, and dialogue, then presents its shortcomings. The Father is led by ‘wretched needs,’ implying he was a slave to his instincts, driven by animalistic motives. However, the play also presents a satire on ‘natural acting, when no-one can hear the hushed conversation of the Stepdaughter with Madame Pace the Manager argues that they must observe the conventions of the theater. The Leading Lady announces cattily that she will be dressed “much more appropriately” than the character herself!
Six Characters in Search of an Author is a very disturbing, strange play. Although the ideal family is close knit and loving, the characters in this family are anything but loving towards each other, and show what any familys worst nightmare could be. Pirandello uses the different forms of reality and unreality in the play to create confusion and disharmony. The characters, who are desperately in search of their purpose, to act out their miserable lives, are in a state of constant disharmony and contempt with each other and the actors. Their dilemma will never be resolved, because their own lives will be interpreted differently by others: the audience, as well as the actors who would portray them. The six characters will always live with the terrible pain of their written-out lives, which will follow them forever.