Effective Use of Irony and Satire in Unveiling

Effective Use of Irony and Satire in Unveiling

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Effective Use of Irony and Satire in Unveiling


Unveiling, by Vclav Havel, is an almost satirical view of societal behavior in the modern day world. The unusual props located throughout the apartment as well as the characters involved in the play come together to form an ironic tale wrought with realistic themes and an extremist view of modern society.

          The main characters are Vera, Michael, and Ferdinand Vanek. The play begins with Ferdinand entering the party of Vera and Michael. As the story line progresses, Vera and Michael continue describing their many material possessions and showing off their supposed glamour. All throughout the commentary on their accolades, they also openly criticize Ferdinand in every aspect of his life. They claim to do so only because they like him and because he is their best friend. In the end, Ferdinand begins inching towards the door, and Vera and Michael start to go hysterical at the thought of Ferdinand leaving. Finally, when he sits back down, Vera and Michael resume their "normal" chatter.

          The characterization in Unveiling is consistent in that each character is generally stagnant. Vera is a flat character. She starts out as a needy woman who is almost grandiloquent when she speaks of her belongings. Her husband Michael is no different. His pretentious behavior is only heightened by the accessory of his wife. In the end, they are still the same albeit not as composed as in the beginning. Ferdinand is really just a minor, speaking character in the play. There is not much depth to his character. He is essentially flat because there is no change in his character or lack thereof.

          Though Unveiling does contain many themes, the principle one that is prevalent throughout is social pretensions. Vera and Michael pretend that everything is fine in their life though it clearly is not. They hold themselves to a materialistic standard that they feel they must uphold. The slick veneer that they like to hide behind is actually rather brittle and transparent. Their loneliness is apparent. For their "unveiling" party, there is only one guest, Ferdinand. That points to the fact that they do not have many friends, thus the reality which is that they are alone. Along these same lines, societal pressures and social conformity are also major themes. They feel they must uphold such pretenses because that is the social standard.

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By feigning love and happiness, they are on the top rung of the social ladder. This is important to them because of the ideal of social conformity. Everyone likes to feel normal and part of the "in" crowd. Vera and Michael are no different. This normalcy is exhibited in the fact that whenever things get a little heated (i.e. after each criticism) the clock plays a tune and Vera and Michael return to "safe" or "normal" conversation of, "Shouldn't I light the fireplace?" and "So I'll put on some music, all right?" They want to feel and be normal, so when they begin getting out of hand, they return to "normal". In that respect, the clock represents normalcy.

          Social pressures and conformity also apply to Ferdinand. When he tries to leave, they deluge him with hysterics and eventually he gives in, because it would just be rude to leave, and therefore, in doing so, he would be going against the accepted "norm." Also, earlier in the play, Ferdinand is clearly uncomfortable by Vera and Michael's public displays of their sexual intimacy, yet, he does not protest or leave. This is once again because he feels morally bound by society's standards.

            Unveiling is an almost satirical view of societal behavior in the modern day world. The unusual props located throughout the apartment as well as the characters involved in the play come together to form an ironic tale wrought with realistic themes and an extremist view of modern society.

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