The Critical Response to Samuel Beckett

By Cathleen Culotta Andonian | Go to book overview

Such, too, is our fate: as we read in Malone Dies, existence is the "crumbling away of two little heaps of finest sand, or dust, or ashes" (48), with no hope of reconstitution. Although we may linger on, we will never arise, Phoenix-like, from our ashes or our dust; we are not like that thief Vanni Fucci in Canto XXIV of the Inferno, endlessly reformed after having been turned to dust and ashes by a serpent's bite. But our immolation is our purification, our expiation of the sin of having been born; for as the Unnamable declares, it is "pity's fires" that will "promote us to ashes" (25).

Gradually time will pass. The poussière d'instants in the poem "bon bon il est un pays" 25 will accumulate, and one day our earth will expire. The dust will conquer all, as Voice C in That Time cries out: "suddenly this dust whole place full of dust . . . from floor to ceiling nothing only dust and not a sound." 26 The sky will go out and the ashes darken, to paraphrase the narrator of Part I of How It Is. Then, as the Unnamable predicted, "silence will fall again and settle, like dust of sand, on the arena, after the massacres" (26). Clov's dream will be the only reality: the planet will be "silent and still, and each thing in its last place under the last dust." 27 As we read in "Text 13" of Stories and Texts for Nothing, "there won't be any life, there won't have been any life, there will be silence, the air quite still that trembled once an instant, the tiny flurry of dust quite settled." 28

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Dante, Shakespeare and Baudelaire have also used these archetypal images for doleful effect, but none has used them as pervasively as Beckett. Ashes and dust recur throughout his prose, drama, poetry and radio plays. The television short "Ghost Trio" and the performance text "A Piece of Monologue" also contain references to dust, while the minimalist "Imagination Dead Imagine" describes bodies changing from leaden to an ashen hue. Beckett's deliberate repetition of ashes and dust creates a mood, a prophecy and a lament; for humanity, civilization and the world itself will eventually return to these elements. Yet Beckett's view does provide a certain consolation, because ultimately the dust and ashes will dissolve into the chaos from which they arose. Then, the last traces of that futile agony which is existence will be effaced, and the "blessedness of absence" 29 will reign eternally.

From The Journal of Beckett Studies 1, nos. 1-2 (Spring 1992): 55-65.

1
The number of references to ashes and dust is my count. A valuable tool in this research was Michèle Aina Barale and Rubin Rabinovitz, A KWIC Concordance to Samuel Beckett's Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, New York, Garland, 1988.

-87-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Critical Response to Samuel Beckett
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 438

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.