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“The Father” by Florian Zeller Essay

Date published: | Lisa Barlow

Posted in: Free Essay Samples

“The Father” is an emotional and yet dramatic play that portrays the hardships of living with dementia. The play revolves around an elderly man Andre, who is slowly drifting into advanced stages of dementia, causing his daughter Anne to be more concerned as she feels that her father cannot be left alone and that he needs someone to constantly take care of him.

His first signs of dementia are portrayed when he accuses the caregiver of stealing his time watch but Anne finds it later. As time progresses, Andre’s memory retrogresses, and he cannot even remember familiar faces including that of his son-in-law and sometimes he feels that strangers keep coming to his apartment claiming to be his family and friends. He further feels miserable as people keep telling him that he does not live in his apartment anymore, but he feels that he has to find a way to prove that the apartment is really his. Anne, on the other hand, is torn between taking care of a father whose health is deteriorating day by day and living her life which includes her full-time job and the choice of moving to Paris/London with her partner.

Zeller has set the play in a way that creates suspense to the audience creating a clear understanding of the play’s themes which include deteriorating health as a result of dementia as well as the family responsibilities and conflicts. Andre’s dementia and the subsequent family responsibility to take care of the aging parents as presented by his daughter sets out modern-day issues that are facing the elderly in society.  Further, the main character’s continuous lashing at other people as well as the growing confusion and pain presents a theme of anguish resulting from mental illnesses among the elderly and the agony they have to persevere as their health becomes worse. At first, Andre is presented as a person who was conscious and outgoing before the onset of dementia, but his life has turned into distress while he is still trying to fight for dignity until he cannot take it anymore and start asking for ’his mother.’

The transitioning of the scenes and the creation of repeated and fractured plays sets a mood and suspense that can somehow help the audience to relate what the main cast is experiencing.  Further, the personality traits of different casts make the play to be more fascinating and captivating to the audience. Andre is for instance presented as a humorous and yet strict character who feels that he is sane enough to understand what is going on around him and that other people are just confused. His wittiness is presented when he happily dances for Laura when she comes to take care of him. However, his wittiness is reduced to confusion and agony as he sinks deeper into dementia, making him behave like a little child. Anne’s sense of responsibility makes her dedicate her time to looking for caregivers to look after her father even when her responsibilities outweigh her. However, the uncertainty of who owns the apartment could also portray Anne as a scheming character who wants to take advantage of her father’s loss of memory to take his property. Moreover, the use of literary devices such as humor and suspense creates the continuity of the play. The use of symbolism such as removing the furniture until nothing is left in the apartment could signify Andre’s diminishing cognitive abilities.