We were having a debate about unreliable narrators over on Argumentative Old Git‘s blog, and nothing exemplifies the idea better than Right You Are (If You Think You Are) – and the idea of the relativity of truth too (which might, or might not, be something different). Pirandello’s play is a version of Rashomon (and when I say Rashomon, I mean In A Grove; and when I say version of, I mean written before).
The plot: a man comes to a new town with his wife and his mother-in-law, but makes them live in different houses and never see one another. When the citizens of the town question why he does this, he claims that the mother-in-law’s daughter, to whom he was married, died several years ago and he re-married, but that the mother-in-law refuses to accept this and believes his new wife is in fact her daughter. The mother-in-law, when questioned, claims on the contrary that it is her son-in-law who is mad, her daughter merely left him for a time because of it and when she went back, her son-in-law didn’t seem to recognise her, but that they managed to persuade him to re-marry her as if she were a different woman. The play consists of the citizens’ attempts to establish which of the two is telling the truth. There are all wound up by a character called Laudisi, who persistently claims throughout that truth is relative, it is based on each person’s perception, and no objective understanding of the situation will ever transpire.
I know, that’s a bit of a long plot summary for me! – So I shan’t bore you with any attempts to dig out the deeper meaning of Pirandello’s play; in fact, I’m pretty sure his only interest in all this relativity is to amuse the reader / onlooker; but it’s a superbly constructed piece – better, at least, than Henry IV, the other play of his I’ve read recently, again about delusion (a man believes he’s Henry IV and everyone has to fit in with his delusion – but aren’t we all acting a part in life anyway?), which I felt fell apart a little dramatically in the second half.