Early in Tadeusz Różewicz’s “The Trap”, young Franz, having suffered the berating of his father at the dinner table, scorns himself as a spoiled and ungrateful brat. His boorish father, who looms as a monster throughout Franz’s memories in the play, angrily reminded his children of the traps of his own hard life — long days of physical labor, hard beds, and little food. He has provided a better life for them, but keeps the family in a trap of his own devising with his heavy-handed dominance of the household.
Franz would escape that trap and establish himself as a man of the middle class, with a degree in law and a career in insurance. But in so doing, he wanders successively into new traps, with each escape being only the prelude to the next.
Many in the audience will be familiar with Franz’s trap of career and moderate success. He does not toil in the fields like his father, but sacrifices each day to an office and a stack of files. He freely gives up his freedom in order to achieve a higher standard of living, one which comes with its own fresh obligations.
After securing the suitable job, Franz must secure the suitable wife, but he finds himself baffled by her insistence on buying a suite of furniture he neither wants nor needs. Fiance Felice seeks these things to escape her own trap and to establish a household of her own, but her need to achieve status and worth in the eyes of society is just another snare to Franz. When she is forced to admit that she has not read a word of the Tolstoy novella Franz implored her to read, it becomes clear: She is seeking a husband, but his identity does not matter much.
The Artist’s predicament as represented in “The Trap” will be familiar to any of those among us who put aside artistic endeavors and dreams in order to “be realistic” and “grow up” — and who, having achieved financial stability at the cost of creative freedom, try to fill the void with objects designed to impress a society made up of others who have also opted for the comforts of the cage over the uncertainty of the Artist’s path.
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