Wayang and Brechtian strategy as a subversive act in Indonesian Arifin C. Noer's The Bottomless Well and other plays

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Literature

Subject Categories

Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory


College of Liberal Arts


Literature, Department of


This study investigates the use of wayang-Brechtian strategy as a subversive act in Indonesian Arifin C. Noer's The Bottomless Well and other plays.The study is a desk-research, that is, data are gathered from libraries, from written works, textbooks, journals, newspapers and so on. The researcher himself serves as a research instrument. The primary data are derived from Arifin C. Noer's plays, while the secondary ones are from books, journals, newspapers, experiences in watching his productions, comments, interviews that aid in the understanding the plays. The collected data are classified, analyzed and then interpreted through a qualitative method. One of the primary data - The Bottomless Well, serves as the case study and used to view the other works in the light of wayang-Brechtian strategy and in seeing overt and covert meaning.Findings showed that the similar function and meaning of the elements of wayang-dalang, dualities of the universe , gunungan, punakawan, and dewa-dewi, patet enem, patet sanga and patet Manyura-are employed by Arifin C. Noer in his The Bottomless Well and other works. Noer also makes use of elements of the Brechtian theater such as Verfremdungseffekt or distancing effect , relaxed audience, plot , untragic hero, and interruption. The breaking of the emphatic link between actor and spectator in his work is a kind of the breaking of the emphatic link between reality in Indonesia and reality in the play and in the text. Noer's work depicts that for the ordinary Indonesian people, the transition of life towards the end of the Old Order and the beginning of the New Order is bitter. He seems to believe that poverty in Indonesia is more of a cultural issue rather than an economic one. He points out that neither wealth nor religion is the answer to the problem.

Reading and watching Arifin C. Noer's The Bottomless Well and other plays differently, we may see, the study concluded, that Arifin's wayang and Brechtian strategy has been applied as a subversive act, i.e., portraying and delivering his social comment as well as injecting some anti-hegemonic elements in his works. Wayang and Brechtian theater are only two of those factors from which Noer derived his important influences. The study regards the fact that traditional Indonesian theater is also familiar with some elements of the so-called Brechtian (and other Western) theater, although the purposes are not necessarily the same. The primary characteristics of his works are their hybridity. Making use of the Brechtian strategy may also mean applying the practical steps toward refunctioning (Umfunktionierung) the so-called old theater or in this case the Indonesian old theater or traditional Indonesian theater such as Wayang theater. As a result, not only can Noer's plays be accepted, understood and enjoyed by Indonesian audience, but they are also a kind of diplomatic expression on socio-political comment and critique of Indonesia. They are a kind of cultural action against the ruling elite in Indonesia. By making use of wayang-Brechtian strategy, not only does Noer manage to depict the social reality in Indonesia, but he is also able to present the theater for instruction.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

302 leaves ; Computer print-out


Theater--Indonesia; Indonesian drama; Wayang; Indonesian literature; Dramatists

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