Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition in Neil Simon’s Theater

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Central Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Central Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

Abstract

Neil Simon’s plays, through their comic exterior, target serious social critique at the contemporary media-ridden culture of America. This research is a study of Simon’s theater from the perspective of Hannah Arendt’s speculations on human condition, totalitarianism, and violence. The selected plays, Fools, Lost in Yonkers, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor are scrutinized according to the three main concepts in Arendt’s thought, which are “action”, “work”, and “labor”. Action‌ is a set of goal-oriented human activities carried out in plurality and imbued with the hope for new possibilities. Plural action is the most effective means of resisting totalitarianism that only wishes to downgrade action to work and then labor through violence. However, despite impositions and enforcements of violence, action always remains in the history for future generations to draw inspiration from. In Simon’s theater, despite its nonpolitical and humorous façade, action is inevitably thwarted, but its positive outcomes cannot be plagued. Simon puts on a vivid display the sparkles of pluralism and action regardless of immanent violence and its democratic disguise.

Keywords


Arendt, Hannah. Hannah Arendt: The Last Interview and Other Conversations. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2013.

--- The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

--- On Violence. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 2007.

--- The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York: Schocken, 1951.

Barichello, Stefania Eugenia. “The Legacy of Hannah Arendt on the Analysis of the Contemporary Condition of the Refugee.” Universitas: Relações Internacionais, 2015, 13.1: n. pag. Web.

Dietz, Mary G. “Arendt and the Holocaust”. In Dana Villa (Ed), The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2000.

Griffiths, David B. Thinking and Judging, Home and Exile: Jaspers, Heidegger, Arendt and Their Circles, 1883-1976. Wroclaw: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

Konas, Gary. Neil Simon: A Casebook. New York: Garland Pub, 1997.

Koprince, Susan. Understanding Neil Simon. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 2002.

Parekh, Serena. Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity: a Phenomenology of Human Rights. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Rooney, David. “Sharing a Legacy of Loss Among Three Generations.” New York Times. New York, 25 Mar 2012.

Simon, Neil. The Collected Plays of Neil Simon, Volume IV. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

--- Fools: A Comic Fable. New York London: French, 1981.

Swift, Simon. Hannah Arendt. London: Routledge, 2009.

Villa, Dana. The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2006.

Walsh, Philip. Arendt contra Sociology: Theory, Society and its Science. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015.