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In Endgame Hamm speaks about a painter he had known who had painted the world in all its vivid colors; yet, one day he stopped painting, and when he went to his window and looked out at the landscape with all the waving yellow corn, he could see nothing but ashes. One day, while a radio director at the BBC, I was in the studio recording a broadcast of Becketts Texts for Nothinga series of short prose pieces when Beckett, who happened to be passing through London, unexpectedly walked in. The late Patrick Magee, one of Becketts favorite actors, was reading one of these texts with his velvety Irish voice in his usual masterly manner.

Beckett listened with great concentration; and then, with his usual courtesy and kindness, he praised Magees rendering, but he added: Dont give it so much emphasis. Remember, this comes from a man who is sitting by a window; he sees the world passing by just a few yards away, but to him all this is hundreds of miles away.

And in the play Not I we have just a mouth lit up in the complete darkness of the stage, from which issues an incessant drone of words, a voice that cannot be stopped, a voice that the owner of the mouth does not recognize as being her own, so that each time she is tempted to use the pronoun I she screams, No, she, she, not I. In other words, she is an individual who experiences the words resounding in her head as being someone elses voice, which drones on in her head and issues through her mouth.

Voices in the head, voices incessantly droning on without the subjects control over them, voices that have to be taken down and put on the blank page, these are the basis of Becketts exploration of his consciousness, the basis of his work. He regards the schizophrenic mind merely as an extreme example of how the human mind in general works.

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Understandably, though a master of words, a great poet, Beckett is not enamored of the raw material of which these voices are composed: words, language. In the earliest phase of Becketts fame, a student once asked him about the contradiction between his pessimism about the possibility of genuine communication among human beings, on the one hand, and his being a writer using language, on the other. Beckett is reported to have said: On na que les mots, monsieurwords, that is all we have! From the very beginning, Beckett was impatient with language and its use in literature.

In an early document, a letter he wrote to Axel Kaun, a German friend, in which has only relatively recently been published Beckett said: It is indeed becoming more and more difficult, even senseless for me to write an official English. And more and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things or Nothingness behind.

Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true gentleman. A Mask. Let us hope the time will come, thank God that in certain circles it has already come, when language is most efficiently used where it is most efficiently misused. As we cannot eliminate language all at once, we should at least leave nothing undone that might contribute to its falling into disrepute. To bore one hole after another in it, until what lurks behind itbe it something or nothingbegins.

Or is literature alone to remain behind in the old lazy ways that have been so long ago abandoned by music and painting? Is there something paralyzingly holy in the vicious nature of the word that is not found in the elements of the other arts? Is there any reason why the terrible materiality of the word surface should not be capable of being dissolved, like, for example, the sound surface, torn by enormous pauses of Beethovens Seventh Symphony.

Thus Beckett in His whole career, his progress as a writer, can be seen as an attempt to grapple with this program he set himself more than half a century ago. First his decision after the war to write some of his major works in Frenchdemanding a new discipline, a new economy in the use of a language that was not his mother tongue.

And then his gradual veering from long prose pieces toward dramatic forms. For in drama as a medium of expression the word is no longer the only or even the principal element: in drama the visual elements supplement and undermine the word. The famous ending of the two acts of Waiting for Godotwhen the words Lets go are followed by the stage direction: They do not moveillustrates that point.

Here a hole is being bored into the surface of the words; the words are being invalidated by action and image. Becketts dramatic workand much of his later prosecan be seen as a steady move toward the dominance of the image. The image is not a description of something: it is that something directly, to come back to Becketts essay about Joyce. In being confronted by an image the spectator is not being given a linear, verbal description or explanation; he is undergoing an experience.

He himself must unravel that experience, make of it what he will, evaluate its impact, which is immediate and both conscious and subliminal and will even directly act on the unconscious levels of his mind. An image, moreover as advertisers know only too well , lingers in the mind and is more intensely and lastingly remembered simply because it is so concise, because it compresses so many distinct elements into an indivisible package. Plays like Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Krapps Last Tape, Happy Days, Not I, or Rockaby, to name only the more obvious ones, do not, as we all know, have a story to tella plot to unfoldas conventional drama does.

They are essentially images, images that may be built up over a certain span of time. The time it takes to complete the image plays its own part in the final impact of the images: the image of Waiting for Godot is only complete when the audience realizes that the second act has the same structure as the first and that the play is, among many other things, an image of the relentless sameness of each day of our liveswaking, living, sleeping, waiting for the end.

Krapps Last Tape is essentially an image of the Self confronting its former incarnations with incomprehension and wonder as something totally alien to itselfthat is the image that remains in the mind, after the details of the words have fadedand the same is true of all of Becketts dramatic work. Becketts dramatic works are thus concretized metaphors, with all the multiple resonances and ambiguities of metaphors as used in lyrical poetry, and they have the same direct impact: they are not about an experience, they are the experience.

Once perceived, they linger in the mind of the spectator and gradually, as she or he remembers and ponders them, unfold their multiple implications. The great power of such metaphors lies in their conciseness, their economy: in Happy Days, for example, the image of Winnie gradually sinking into the earth clearly says something about our gradual approach, with every day that passes, to death and the grave.

But there is also in that image the pathetic need for contact with her husband behind the mound, the human striving for contact, however impossible it is to achieve; there is also in it the preoccupation of all of us with our possessions, however ridiculous and trivial, and there is reference to the fading content of our memories in the half-remembered quotations from the classics. These and hundreds of other elements are all compressed into a very short span of time, into a single but multifaceted and rich image.

Beckett is always striving for greater and greater conciseness and compression. He is a man of exquisite manners and politenesshe thinks it is rude to waste peoples time with useless chatter about inessentials. He wants to say what he has to say as briefly as possible. Hence also the attraction of the compressed image. No wonder Becketts later plays have become progressively shorter and more visualthe role of words in them is being more and more undermined, until, in the end, it ceases altogether.

Some of Becketts later television pieces are purely visual, with a minimum of words, or none at all. It is from this tension between Becketts compulsion to use language and his skepticism about language, his weariness of having to listen to the incessant stream of consciousness, that his growing preoccupation with the electronic mass media must be understood. His work for radio, which embraces a number of his most powerful pieces, can be seen as springing directly from this preoccupation.

Beckett discovered radio early on when the BBC approached him to write a radio piece. His first attempt at the medium, All That Fall, is still fairly realistic: most of it happens inside the consciousness of an old woman, but the outside world with its sounds and the voices of other people is strongly present.

But soon Beckett realized that here he had the ideal medium for a stream of consciousness. His next radio play, Embers, already takes place altogether within the mind of an old man who cannot stop. At one point he remembers how he retreated to the toilet when his logorrhea became too strong, and his little daughter asked what he was doing there talking. Tell her I am praying, he told his wife. In later radio pieces Beckett dissects the mind of a writer like himself.

In one of them, Rough for Radio II, there is a producer, called the animator, and his secretary, who are compelled each day to go down into the cellar and take a little old man called Fox clearly Voxthe voice out of the cupboard where he is kept; they have to listen to what he says so that the secretary can take it down.

Fox says little of interest, but the animator and the secretary are compelled to do this every day of their lives. They can only faintly hope that one day they will be spared this chore. This quite clearly is an image of the creative process as Beckett himself experiences it. Becketts stage work tries to transcend the compulsion of language by the greater and greater use of visual imagery. Deep down, Beckett is a frustrated painter.

He certainly prefers the company of painters to that of his fellow writers. His greatest friends have been painters. On the stage the visual image is equally important tonay more important thanthe words. The two tramps on either side of the little tree in Waiting for Godot, the pathetic figures of the old parents emerging from trash cans in Endgame, are infinitely stronger than any words that are spoken in those plays.

The same is true of Krapp listening to his former self on an old tape recorder, Winnie sinking into the ground, or the heads of the three dead characters protruding from funerary urns in Play, the isolated spot of light on the mouth in Not I, the rocking chair with the old woman moving up and down in Rockaby. The trouble with stage images, however, is that their realization depends on a director and stage designer who may want to modify the authors vision.

The rumpus a few years ago about a production of Endgame in Boston, where the director had decided to locate the play in a New York subway station after World War III, is a case in point. Beckett objected so strongly to this modification of his vision which also completely changes the meaning of the play itself that he threatened to ban the production; only reluctantly did he allow a compromise by which the theater had to print his stage direction in the program and point out that the set here presented was at variance with the authors intentions.

The solution to the problem of misinterpretation by directors and stage designers lay with Becketts directing his own stage workwhich he did on various occasions, in Germany and with the San Quentin Players. But he could not direct all his work on the stage the world over. This is why he eventually was so greatly attracted to the medium of television. Here he could not only direct his own work but also fix the visual image on the magnetic tape for future generations.

Beckett has always been greatly interested in the cinema: in the thirties he even applied for a place in Eisensteins film school in Moscow. His plays are full of images and allusions taken from the silent cinema. In his only foray into writing a filmcalled FilmBeckett chose to cast the main character with that great silent film comic Buster Keaton. It was one of Keatons last appearances before he died. Alan Schneider, Becketts friend and favorite American director, directed Film, and Beckett came to New Yorkhis only visit to the United Statesto be present at the shooting of the picture.

Film, although a fascinating experiment, was not a complete success: the technical difficulties of the film medium, the many technicians involved, inhibited the complete translation of Becketts vision into the film medium. Taping for television is simpler: it involves fewer technicians and allows the director a far more direct influence on the final image. Although technically he did not sign as the director, Beckett retained complete control of the taping of the works he conceived for television, whether these were produced by the BBC or the Sddeutscher Rundfunk in Stuttgart, with which Beckett had a close relationship.

The short television plays that Beckett had written since the late seventiesGhost Trio, In them he has, as in his earlier mime plays, broken the terrible materiality of language and has produced a new kind of poetrya poetry of moving images that is neither painting, because it moves, nor cinema, because it is extremely austere in the use of cinematic devices such as montage or sophisticated editing.

The short stage plays that appeared during the same period also show the influence of his work with the television medium. Many of them were written for specific occasions, such as the Beckett symposium at Buffalo, for which he wrote Rockaby, or the symposium at Ohio State University, for which he wrote Ohio Impromptu in , or the matinee at Avignon to honor the imprisoned Czech playwright Vclav Havel, to which he contributed Catastrophe. In one case, a stage playlet, What Where, has been modified by Beckett under the influence of his having been involved in the production of a television version.

In the original stage version, the four men appearing in the play entered and exited rather laboriously; in the television version their faces merely appear out of the darkness. This made Beckett realize that the heavy materiality of entering and leaving the stage was unnecessary to bring these figures on and off, so he revised the stage version to make the faces of the men merely appear out of the dark.

In the play Not I Beckett preferred the television version to the original. In the stage version, the audience sees a tiny speck of light denoting a mouth. When Beckett agreed to have his favorite actress, Billie Whitelaw, appear in a television version of this play for the BBC, the mouth could only be shown in close-up and the Auditor disappeared. Of course a mouth in close-up is a much more powerful image than a mouth seen at a distance on stage.

Here the mouth in close-up became a truly horrifying, menacing organ; with the tongue moving between the teeth, it was downright obscene, a kind of vulva dentata. I happened to be in the studio in London when Beckett first saw this performance. He was deeply moved by it and, I think, considered it the definitive version of Not I. And it is preserved for the future.

Becketts involvement with the television and radio media shows that he was thoroughly at home in the twentieth century and with its technology. He was a man with an immense interest in mathematics and technology. In working with him on a number of radio productions I was always deeply impressed by his passionate interest in the technologies involved and by his brilliant use of his technical know-how in controlling the production with the utmost precision.

As someone deeply conscious of the mystery of time as the basic mode of being, the whole concept of recording sound and imagesand thus, in a sense, making time repeatable, stopping it so that one can actually relive past timefascinated him; hence the play Krapps Last Tape was his direct response to discovering tape recording, when the BBC sent him a tape of his earliest radio play.

His involvement in radio, cinema, and television also underlines another important point: namely, that in our century the art of drama has conquered an immense new field for its own diffusion. Radio and television drama and the cinematic feature film are forms of drama open to all dramatists, and it is significant that some of the most important dramatists of this century have been drawn to the media.

Brecht wrote radio plays at a very early stage, and Pinter, Stoppard, Beckett, Bond, and Shepard have written films and television plays. Beckett was one of the pioneers, an acknowledged master dramatist experimenting with the new medium. It is perhaps a pity that the United States, which lacks a unified television service that can accommodate minority tastes and hence experimentation, is one of the few developed countries where serious dramatists have reduced access to this fascinating and most important medium. All the more commendable are the present efforts of some intrepid pioneers to bring some of Becketts work to American television audiences.

As I mentioned at the outset, Beckett is still regarded as a difficult author, accessible only to elites. There is some truth to that but only insofar as. I have always found it an insult to audiences that ordinary British middle-brow television fare has been thought palatable to American audiences only as Masterpiece Theatre, accompanied by introductions explaining difficult aspects.

Beckett does not even fit into this stereotyped category. But once one has grasped what Beckett is concerned with, he is not difficult or elitist. On the contrary, he deals with the basic problems of human existence on the most down-to-earth level. That is why the prisoners at San Quentin did get the point of Waiting for Godot, and some of them decided to devote themselves to the production of Becketts plays.

In fact, Beckett regarded himself asand wasbasically a comic writer, a humorist, even though his humor is black humor, gallows humor. As one of the characters in Endgame says, one of the funniest things in the world is human unhappiness. That is: once you have seen how unimportant the individual human being is in the great scheme of things in this universe, you can laugh about even the saddest aspects of individual experience.

In other words: being able to look at oneself and ones misfortunes and sufferings with a sense of humor is a liberating, a cathartic experience. We can all do with that kind of sense of humor. Becketts vision is a bleak one; he has none of the consolations of religion and totalitarian ideologies to offer us.

Yet what he shows is the need to have compassion, pity, and love for our fellow human beings in this mysterious, impenetrable, and inexplicable universeand to be able to laugh at ourselves, including our misfortunes. Set against the background of the vastness and infinity of the universe, our misfortunes must appear laughably trivial.

Peter Murphy

Beckett has the courage to confront the world and to tell us how it is. R ef er e nce s Beckett, Samuel. Three Dialogues Englewood Cliffs, N. Joyce London: John Calder, In fiction such authority is represented by the godlike narrator who oversees characters and plot and who provides the controlling intelligence from which a normative set of values can be derived, no matter how eccentrically a works characters might behave or how experimentally they might be presented in terms of narrative technique.

The status of this traditionally godlike narrative authority is reinterpreted by Joyce, then challenged by Beckett. Both Joyce and Beckett question the authority of the traditional omniscient narrator, but do so in ways expressed through opposite stylistic assumptions and techniques. Two examples from Ulysses illustrate how the questionable authority of interior monologue is replaced by a secular version of the controlling narrator, the author himself as manipulator of language. Such a narrator is too apt to call our attention to himself and his handiwork to be considered godlike.

But, if not omniscient, he is at least omnipresent in terms of style. Two prayer scenes from Waiting for Godot and Happy Days demonstrate how Beckett seemingly reacts against Joyces retention of narrative authority, with all its theological implications. Copyright by Fordham University. Historically considered, Joyce and Beckett have become two of the most influential writers of our century through their inclusion of problematic interpretation as part of the aesthetic experience, a degree of complexity that requires readers to acknowledge their own complicity in making meaning out of what they perceive.

Joyce pioneers the inclusion of indeterminacy in his narrative, first in the opening of Portrait and next in those later chapters of Ulysses where his method of narration takes precedence over who and what are being narrated. Finnegans Wake represents the culmination of a language and style which pre-empts that narrative guidance through a story line which has traditionally been central to the reading experience. Here readers must puzzle over each syllable of the language from beginning to end, being perhaps more consistently aware of their own attempts to interpret what is being said than of anything else.

First, for both came poetry and an analytical essay on a major literary predecessor, Beckett on Proust and Joyce on Ibsen. Then More Pricks Than Kicks, a series of stories set in Dublin and united by a common character instead of a common theme, as in Dubliners. But the more appropriate and chronologically parallel comparison for Murphy is Joyces Portrait since both seem experimental in terms of their predecessors yet conventionally realistic in comparison to the fiction that follows.

Like the second half of Joyces Ulysses, Becketts Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, and Waiting for Godot all represent a departure from the authors previous depiction of reality perceived in terms of plot, character, and setting. In parallel fashion, then, Joyce and Beckett have developed from realistic writers depicting characters in terms of situations into tragi-comedians exposing the provisional nature of what the reader perceives to be their enterprise, truth-telling through fiction. In both we can see the end implicit in their beginning.

Even where they retain some conventions of fictional realism,. Their fiction becomes increasingly self-referential, no longer an interpretation of external reality so much as a construct of language open to multiple interpretations by different readers. Two examples from the earlier and later types of narrative in Ulysses illustrate how the influence of the original Author, as the source of theological omniscience in ones view of reality, has been replaced by interior monologue and by the human authors exercise of his own omniscience through built-in reminders to his readers that he is always in control of his fictional world.

When Stephen Dedalus shuts his eyes while walking on the beach, he can still hear the sound of crunching stones and shells, and thus concludes that he cannot ignore the existence of external reality: There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end U 3. The double meaning of without establishes that reality must be independent of the perceiver as well as external to him, properties constituting possible evidence of an everlasting Creator, as his echo of the conclusion of the Gloria in the Book of Common Prayer acknowledges.

Yet Stephen refuses personal assent to that creed by not pronouncing his Amen. To begin with, there is considerable doubt about how well Stephen is able to read [s]ignatures of all things U 3. With respect to his own art, at least, the signature is not Stephens own, but that of Douglas Hyde on the poem Stephen is composing in this chapter Gifford That night, in Circes brothel when he is trying to pick out a tune on the piano and is asked by a prostitute to sing accompanied by the inevitable double entendre of having intercourse , Stephen admits that, creatively and procreatively, he is a most finished artist U In aspiring to be an artist, Stephen seeks a kind of immortality.

As he would read signatures of all things himself, so he wishes to be read rightly, in his essence, by others: I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back. Endless, would it be mine, form of my form? Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words?

Considering the literary and traditional associations of ones shadow with the soul, Stephen seems to be wondering here if he has an eternal essence that will continue to be him, endless after the death of his human form. If so, can that be expressed in words as a signature to be fully understood through all space and time to come ever anywhere by others? The answer to Stephens question is both someone and no one. Later Leopold Bloom does pick up the scrap of paper on which Stephen has jotted his fragment of a poem.

But it has become too blurred for Bloom to read U Stephens desire to be understood is religious, as well as personal and artistic. At the chapters end, his original desire to be noticed expands beyond the artists need for recognition. Wistfully he touches on the Cartesian solution of an omniscient entity bridging the dualistic gap between concept and percept: Behind. Perhaps there is someone U 3. The name of this chapter is Proteus, the god identified with the shifting flux of phenomena. So is Stephen looking for the existence of a Cartesian God behind that flux capable of unifying internal ideas and the external reality to which they refer?

What Stephen sees behind him when he does turn around holds theological promise: moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship U 3. The threemaster three crosses, or Christ as the master part of the Trinity?

Yet, as we might expect in a chapter on appearance and reality, this ending remains decidedly ambiguous. For the actuality of the situation undercuts any theological interpretation of what Stephen may see in the ship. He has just placed a piece of snot on a rock, observing For the rest let look who will U 3. Coming after such a melodramatic gesture, his query about someone behind him may simply indicate Stephens desire to be caught in the act by some passerby.

Or is it guilt over desecrating the rock of Peters church? In an intrusion rare in the early chapters of Ulysses, the narrator inserts rere regardant, the stiff, even precious, language of striking an heraldic pose, to describe Stephens turning to look behind him U 3. Even the image of the sailing ship may be another example of Stephens second-hand creativity since it is described in the manner of Tennyson. When Haines presses Stephen to describe his religious belief, Stephen responds You behold in me Proteus shows that Stephens misery derives not so much from atheism itself as from Stephens inability to be a freethinker, to believe in it wholeheartedly as a substitute for the unswerving commitment that he had previously reserved for Catholicism.

What begins as comparatively pure internal monologue, a philosophical reflection that reaffirms Cartesian dualism, ends in a yearning for theological reconciliation. Yet such a hope as Stephen bitterly appreciates better than anyone. Against the personal melodrama of inner conflict between Stephens doubt and would-be or has-been? The possible self-mockery of Stephens viewing the sailing ship in terms of Tennysons Christian consolation is augmented by the incongruous insertion of the language of heraldry. Perhaps the narrator is insinuating that the reader ought to view Stephens dramatic turnaround toward the heavenly promise of the ship with the same skepticism accorded to his absurd posturing with the snot.

At the end of Proteus it is impossible to distinguish between the readers response to the otherworldly appearance of the shipwhich, in his earlier works, Joyce might have regarded as an epiphanyand the narrators own mockery of the notion that any such object could constitute an epiphany. Thus when the narrator subsequently takes complete control, as in Sirens, the realistic psychological rendering of character through interior monologue becomes problematic.

Leopold Blooms interior monologue designates him as the main character, among those listening to sentimental songs in the Ormond Bar. Yet Blooms own sentimental and voyeuristic anticipation of his wifes adulterous appointment with Blazes Boylan is overwhelmed by the narrators larger view of organizing the whole chapter as if its language were subject to the same patterns of sound as the music that is being performed.

Consider the chapters opening: Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons, steelyringing. Imperthnthn thnthnthn U By the second line the narrator begins treating words abstractly, solely according to their value in creating patterns of sound. Since his epic parallel with the sirens and the situation in the hotel requires that the sound be singing, Joyce adopts the organizational technique of an operatic composer.

As a musician might represent his operatic arias abstractly, through instrumental fragments of melody in the overture, so Joyce begins with an abstract sound pattern, the melody only, to which the words will be added later. Each of the lines in this excerpt represents some incident that will later be more fully developed as an aria set within a narrative sequence.

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Bronze by gold in Joyces overture later turns out to be a pair of red- and yellow-haired barmaids, the sirens of this chapter who regard a waiters casual attitude toward them as impertinent insolence U In the excerpt above, however, we see not their admonishment of the waiter but. Closing his nostrils with one hand as he speaks, the waiter snorts out a derisive distortion of impertinent insolence, an echo note the number and division of the syllables imperthnthn thnthnthn of the sound included at the opening of this chapter Blamires Initially Joyce violates our expectations about linear narrative so that we will be more attuned to these fragmentary phrases in the overture when we encounter them again later, as aural motifs repeated within the dramatic context of the narrative.

Of course, the use of words as abstract sounds works against their usual connotations and denotations. The very fact that Joyces analogy between words and music in Sirens repeatedly breaks down is what makes the narrators arrangement call attention to itself. During the rest of the narrative that follows his verbal overture Joyce introduces rhythmic patterns and words distorted for time and sound values to remind us continually of his narrative concept of comparing words with music, even as we also try to follow the story.

Character and plot are diminished as we become aware, before anything else, of Joyce exposing his artistic manipulations of reality so that readers may see his narrators laboring mightily to create the illusion of significance. Joyce delights in making more out of his subject than it inherently deserves; and he lets us in on his joke. He calls his novel Ulysses, the Latin name of Odysseus, to alert the reader that he will be drawing parallels between his own characters and the classical characters of Homers epic. Such problematic interpretation is also a source of comedy, as we detect these elaborate parodies of well-known works like The Odyssey and Hamlet and watch for underlying organizational concepts like the one of music just described in Sirens.

Both the parodies and the narrative manipulations operate to distance readers from characters and plot, even as they keep them conscious of the comic presentation, of how hard the narrator must work to invest one rather ordinary Dublin day with epic scope and significance. Thus far we have seen how in Ulysses character and plot are first deemphasized by concentration on interior monologue in Proteus, then superseded altogether by a conceptually organized narrative in Sirens. For the reader who surveys the flux of narrative phenomena throughout Ulysses, the answer to Stephens speculation in Proteus of who or what lies behind the shifting appearance must be Joyces narrators and their various organizational strategies.

They are perhaps too numerous and various to represent omniscience; yet they do strive to approximate omnipotence by imposing on plot and character a total conceptual order within their individual chapters. Once we view Ulysses in terms of this shift from the microcosm of interior monologue to the macrocosm of exterior narrative control, then Finnegans Wake represents a culmination of Joyces narrative development, a merging of the microcosm with the macrocosm.


Through the creation of his own time and space Joyce here invents a language that more closely approximates music than that of Sirens because it has become more abstract and self-referential. In Finnegans Wake the autonomous narrators of Ulysses become one, representing a universal consciousness that is both interior monologue and exterior narration.

Godlike, Joyce begins his creation with the logos so that his narrator may finally exercise both omniscience and omnipotence, the development of the fiction being the readers witnessing of a new world being created syllable by syllable. Like Joyces Stephen on the beach, some of Samuel Becketts characters speculate inconclusively about who or what lies behind external reality. But Beckett takes the conclusion of Stephens experiment in introspection, that an external world is there all the time without you U 3. Stephens external world is there without him, independent of his being aware of it.

Reality is also without Stephen in the sense of being outside, external to his perception of it in a spatio-temporal presence that enables him to read its signatures U 3. But Becketts fictions minimize such distinctions between internal and external reality. Consciousness expressed in language through character and narration exists prior to and so perhaps independent of physical identity, as a voice without determinate location in time or space. Beckett repeatedly questions the logic of Descartes I think; therefore I am by demonstrating the way introspection discloses no contingent I but only the self-questioning consciousness itself Hesla in MorotSir In Becketts fiction, as in Joyces, loose associative links within the consciousness of narrators replace the more traditional cause-and-effect sequencing of character and plot Wicker Joyces novels compensate for loss of such causal coherence through rhetorical strategies that reinstate purposeful control of the narrative.

But Becketts lack coherence; their associative links are minimal because their narrators establish no clear purpose or identity. Whereas Joyce reinstates a full narrative agent, the omnipotent narrator, Beckett progressively moves toward narrative vacuity to demonstrate that there can be no such entity to control the telling; there is only the weak old voice that tried in vain to make me STFN , the thought process failing to manifest itself convincingly in language. Throughout a series of novels from Molloy to Malone meurt to LInnommable Beckett successfully undermines both the omniscience of impersonal narrators and the personal identity of narrators of characters.

Sometimes first-person narrators within the same novel even have multiple names, confirming their indeterminacy. The Unnamable culminates Becketts series of minimally narrated novels with an unidentified witness, a protean narrative voice which can be anything from a finite consciousness to an omnipresent metaphysical abstraction. Not only does Becketts fiction lack the central consciousness of a narrator who knows more than particular characters; it lacks the presence of those characters themselves as multiple consciousnesses who remain sufficiently coherent to reveal discrete points of view on a common subject.

For Beckett all conventional narration, from omniscient to first-person, becomes problematic. In Becketts first published novel the narrator confidently asserts that All the puppets in this book whinge sooner or later, except Murphy, who is not a puppet MU But since it takes a narrator to make such a distinction between puppets and free agents, is not Murphy that narrators puppet?

In fact, who is this narrator who remains bodiless, just a voice that does not like Joyces later narrators in Ulysses draw attention to itself as narrator? Does this lack of presence imply that there is another narrator narrating this narrator? The theological implications of such an infinite narrative regression are most clearly stated in one of the Stories and Texts for Nothing. In this work the writer reformulates the prime mover into a prime observer, in terms of Becketts Cartesian consciousness: at the end of the billions [of all the peoples of the earth,] youd need a god, unwitnessed witness of witnesses STFN But, of course, the work that most extensively dramatizes the impertinence of fallible witnesses trying to imagine an unwitnessed witness of witnesses is Waiting for Godot.

Early in the play, while they wait, Vladimir and Estragon decide to kill time by killing themselves.

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But they realize this might be impractical because the branch of a nearby tree might not be strong enough to hang both of them, and then one would be left alonepresumably a fate worse than death [b]. What do we do? Its safer. Then well take it or leave it. Nothing very definite. The composite image of God that emerges here is so concrete because both Vladimir and Estragon share a concept of what is for them the normal thing, prayer as a potential material transaction. Godot puts off an immediate answer to their prayer so that he can consult family, friends, and business associates.

The progression of consultants grows increasingly impersonal and businessoriented until it results in a personal decision reached impersonally, one based on the proverbial bottom line: his [account] books and his bank account. But before we blame Godot, their version of God, for being calculating, we should note that Beckett takes pains to remind us that this is only their version.

At first they are inclined to do nothing because they fear what Godot might do: its safer. Watt is reflecting on the phenomenon of his entrance to the house, which occurred for reasons he cannot apprehend. Both the front and back door were, upon initial investigation, locked. Upon a second attempt, the back door was opened slightly. There can be but two possible explanations for this: either he was careless in his first examination and the door had been open all along, or it had been opened by some person while Watt was double-checking the front door.

Rather than indicating his preference due to its logic, he marks it as beautiful, and therefore worthy of choice. He calmly accepts the impossibility of knowing the cause of the objective fact he has encountered, and recognizes the aesthetic nature of the mystery. This is an exceptional moment in the context of the novel as a whole, and totally distinct from other similar situations of discernible effects and mysterious causes that occur later in the text. There are numerous examples that illustrate the harmful instability provoked in Watt by the friction between cause and effect.

Knott, for he did not. But he had turned, little by little, a disturbance into words, he had made a pillow of old words, for a head. Instead he weds logic to beauty via a mystery and accepts it peacefully on its own terms. In so doing Watt himself is aesthetically transformed: He set down his bags beside him, on the beautiful red floor, and he took off his hat, for he had reached his destination, discovering his scant red hair, and laid it on the table beside him.

Pitch 'n' Putt with Joyce 'n' Beckett

Beckett, , 37 The fire here is total and encompasses Watt, a redhead, and the room he is in. Watt is himself part of that image. He is completely engrossed in this process, and is oblivious of Arsene because of it. Watt stands on the brink of a precipice. Before he notices Arsene, though, the narrator Sam presents the reader with a commentary full of pathos: But he found it strange to think, of these little changes, of scene, the little gains, the little losses, the thing brought, the thing removed, the light given, the light taken, and all the vain offerings to the hour, strange to think of all these little things that cluster round the comings, and the stayings, and the goings, that he would know nothing of them, nothing of what they had been, as long as he lived.

The mystery of what is unknowable, it seems, is the source of the beauty in which Watt participates. It is important to note that participation, since it is not an epiphany or revelation experienced and possessed exclusively by Watt, but instead a state of innocence, a game, a pretty picture of which he is a part.

Watt enjoys a peaceful present that is silent and distinctly ordinary. He is simply playing, while he reflects on the splendor of his own ignorance. It corrupts his innocence by enlisting him as another in a series that operates according to a logic that is unfathomable, but that Watt feels compelled to try to comprehend. Ash, who subverts the logical order by keeping his own time. Arsene provides Watt with the statement of his experience so Watt may learn from it.

Such a reading seems precarious, though, and somewhat irrelevant, since the primary significance of the transition is not to be found in its parallels in reality, but in its specific mechanics and content. This last comment is more than a figure of speech. It is the literal truth. Day invades the room with its light, but this light is the light of a negative epiphany, not a positive one. Arsene is, above all else, a great talker, and there are indications in the text that he is aware of his capacity for performance.

The verbal spotlight he bequeaths to Watt does not suit him, and ultimately destroys his sanity. Games that exist only to help the time pass quickly, in the absence of any hope for transcendental salvation, aesthetic or otherwise, have a central role in the plays Waiting for Godot and Endgame Murphy, P. Related Papers.

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Murphy, Beckett's Dedalus. Beckett after Beckett, edited by S. Gontarski and Anthony Uhlmann. Beckett after Wittgenstein, Andre Furlani. Beckett and Babel : an investigation into the status of the bilingual work, Brian T. Beckett and Badiou : the pathos of intermittency, Andrew Gibson. Beckett and Bion : the im patient voice in psychotherapy and literature, Ian S.

Miller ; with contributions by Kay Souter. Beckett and French theory : the narration of transgression, Eric Migernier. Beckett and Joyce : friendship and fiction, Barbara Reich Gluck. Beckett and decay, Kathryn White. Beckett and ethics, edited by Russell Smith. Beckett and myth : an archetypal approach, Mary A.

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Beckett and nothing : trying to understand Beckett, edited by Daniela Caselli. Beckett and phenomenology, edited by Ulrika Maude and Matthew Feldman. Beckett and the modern novel, John Bolin. Beckett avant la lettre, Brigitte Le Juez. Beckett before Godot, John Pilling. Beckett writing Beckett : the author in the autograph, H. Porter Abbott. Beckett's Dantes : intertextuality in the fiction and criticism, Daniela Caselli.

Beckett's Dedalus : dialogical engagements with Joyce in Beckett's fiction, P. Beckett's art of absence : rethinking the void, Ciaran Ross. Beckett's art of mismaking, Leland de la Durantaye. Beckett's art of salvage : writing and material imagination, , Julie Bates Trinity College Dublin. Beckett's books : a cultural history of Samuel Beckett's "interwar notes", Matthew Feldman.

Beckett's critical complicity : carnival, contestation, and tradition, Sylvie Debevec Henning. Beckett's dying words : the Clarendon lectures, , Christopher Ricks. Beckett's intuitive spectator : me to play, Michelle Chiang. Beckett's later fiction and drama : texts for company, edited by James Acheson and Kateryna Arthur ; foreword by Melvin J. Beckett's masculinity, Jennifer M.