After the Final No: Samuel Beckett's Trilogy

After the Final No: Samuel Beckett's Trilogy

After the Final No: Samuel Beckett's Trilogy

After the Final No: Samuel Beckett's Trilogy

Synopsis

This study explores the dialectic of destruction and renewal in the work that Samuel Beckett regarded as his masterpiece: the trilogy of novels he wrote after World War II. It interprets the trilogy as presenting a subversive critique of the three idols -- mother, father, and self -- to which humanity has looked for protection and guidance throughout history.

Excerpt

Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday 1906, a coincidence that, as his biographer James Knowlson notes, “was assimilated by him into a view of life that sees birth as intimately connected with suffering and death and that sees life as a painful road to be trod” (24) Allusions to the death of Christ appear throughout his novels and plays, most famously in Waiting for Godot, where Vladimir tries to interest Estragon in the story of Christ and the two thieves. in Company, written more than thirty years later, Beckett testified to the persisting importance of this image by recalling that, on the day of his own birth, “Christ at the ninth hour cried and died” (45). the figure of the crucified Christ echoes a theme—the fear of being abandoned at a moment of distress— that resonates throughout Beckett’s work. the significance of this motif for Beckett is also evident in the notebook that he kept while directing Godot in Berlin in 1974; there, he made a list of the numerous occasions on which a character calls for help, as well as the depressingly few times that this appeal is answered appropriately.

Dante, an author to whose work Beckett frequently alludes, provided himself in the Divine Comedy with an absolutely reliable rescuer in the form of Virgil, who came to him in the midst of a grave crisis and led him out of the dark wood. in Worstward Ho, his last major prose work, Beckett echoes this figure of the trustworthy guide and his follower in the repeated image of an old man leading a little boy by the hand: “Hand in hand with equal plod they go. in the free hands—no. Free empty hands. Backs turned both bowed with equal plod they go. the child hand raised to reach the holding hand. Hold the old holding hand. Hold and be held” (105). Knowlson has suggested, on Beckett’s own authority, that this image points in some privileged way to the emotional core of his work: “[A] startling image is created that Beckett admitted to me was one of the most ‘obsessional’ (his word) of his childhood memories: that of an old man walking . . .

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