As a subject of a subsequent analysis, the personality of Samuel Beckett and character of his dramatical work with thematically determined interpretation will be introduced with the focus on the dynamics at the axiological level, i. e. in the context of his work but also his inner state of mind which will be achieved by a critical look at Beckett's autobiography and the former context. In spite of the fact that this kind of concept denies the author's preference pronounced in the work symptomatically named Damned to Fame by James Knowlson where it is claimed that Beckett "always hoped that it would be his work rather than his life that was placed under the microscope." (Knowlson xix), Beckett's works, and especially those within to the context of the Theatre of The Absurd, will not allow the reader or the audience not to rise questions related to the search for the basis and clarification of his works - in other words, there is a great need to understand. Similar chase for the reasonable explanation could possibly be also Beckett's own state of mind when he was put through difficult life events,
e. g. the loss of his immediate family, crisis of own creation, war or poverty. Not only the subsequent disillusionment from aforementioned unhappy events has finally forced Beckett to ask whether any reason for the human suffering does even exist.
One of the crucial intentions is to describe the result of this need for rational view or reasonable understanding for seemingly unexplainable absurdity which has harmful or devastating effects on a human life. Moreover, this clash of two different or, more precisely, contradictory, concepts can be considered a driving force of dynamics, primarily at psychical level and subsequently, based on the experiences and inner perception, as well as at epistemological level, since cognition is reached as well, i. e. through physical and mental suffering. The dynamics as such will be concepted in two ways: at first, chronologically within the diachronic concept and secondly, the analysis will be based on comparison and development of values under specific axiological themes. An attempt will be made to appoint which values are relatively stable and which are changable. A partial objective is to assess the changes within the hierarchy of values and appoint the driving force causing the axiological dynamics. Primarily, the personality of the author will be taken into consideration when the work will be evaluated in terms of axiology, as well as the analysis will be based on the most authentic and reliable testimonies from persons who had known Beckett well, had personal experience with him or were able to assess his work critically with regard to Beckett's mindset and personal features.
Within Beckett's autobiography, it is possible to notice a number of events which have influenced not only author's opinions, attitudes and personality but also his work, in which these features are necessarily reflected, i. e. in accordance to the opinion it is not possible the author's subjectivity would not be reflected in his work. Therefore, in a certain level, the work can be concepted as a kind of testimony about Beckett's attitudes and states of mind. Based on this, the work will be concepted as a kind of author's confession previewed at the external level of axiology (i. e. values described and pronounced explicitly) and values pronounced implicitly, i. e. those which can be reached by interpretation).
In spite of Beckett's claim pronounced in Knowlson's Damned to Fame, that Beckett "regarded his life as separate from his work ..." (Knowlson xix) the question could be raised whether this total separation is even possible. As stated further, James Knowlson claims: "when he spoke of a separation between his life and his work, I could not agree that such a separation was as absolute as he claimed" (Knowlson xix). Moreover, within the book HappyDays translated by F. Vrba containing Beckett's play of the same name as well as several comments from people who had personal experience with Beckett, Tomáš Vyskočil describes his experience under the title Waiting for Beckett. He remembers having asked him: "Where is it possible to learn more about your life?" to which Beckett responded: "In my writings. Everything I could say I put into my books." (Vrba 32)
As was previously mentioned, one of the crucial aims of the analysis will be an attempt to describe how this sensitive and strongly rational author, who Beckett was undoubtedly, reacted to the inner conflict of reason and absurdity, as well as unhappy life events, which this highly perceptive author had to cope with. How these circumstances have affected his state of mind and hierarchy of values will be another crucial part of the analysis. Moreover, an attempt will be made to appoint the stimuli of changes or a shift at the axiological level. Even though some of the values could seem rather stable and unchanging, there is certain volatility expected, i. e. in the connection to the situational context. Another crucial theme related to an axiological analysis will be the possibility of compensation as existential and materialistic phenomenon. The value will be concepted as ethical and philosophical feature, which can be either stable or modified - in dependence on the whole axiological experience and its position within the hierarchy (which implies the idea of creation of certain preferences).
Based on the axiological concept, the subject of critical analysis will not be Beckett as a kind of phenomenon, but Beckett as an ordinary person, primarily his inner world and attributes of his personality, personal experience or feelings in former political, cultural and personal context which would serve as a starting position for axiological analysis of his life and work. In the conclusion of the thesis, the axiological analysis of Beckett's works will be summarized, i. e. from the thematically-comparative point of view with an appointment of crucial values, both, those of subjecitve nature and those which resulted from objective (external) influences, will be determined, as well as their representation in Beckett's dramatical work.
In terms of diachronic concept, its crucial idea lies in concepting Beckett's work in chronological order with the purpose of creation of certain development or changes in the field of values displayed in Beckett's work. A focus will be made not only on which values are displayed and how they are changing, but also a question will be raised what has caused this dynamics and why specific values are present in the work, i. e. an attempt will be made to justify their presence, taking into consideration the features which could possibly have influenced the author.
At first part of the thesis, the personality of Samuel Beckett will be introduced in order to appoint the values he professed. Author's biography and experience will be analysed with the aim to define the values which have developed in accordance to the author's personality and thus the foundation of axiological orientation will be created, on which Beckett's first values will be based. The subsequent dynamics and eventual changes at axiological level will be mediated especially by the personal experience, gowth of knowledge and cognition, perception and reactions of the author. The analysis will be based on author's own testimonies or a critical view at his work, i. e. through its interpretation. Beckett is said to have found his own style of writing only after Second World War. All his dramatical work may thus be found as having its origin in Beckett's specific style of writing. Therefore, the crucial focus is made on his dramatical work.
2. Axiological concept of Samuel Beckett's life
The subsequent analysis of Beckett's life will be based primarily on the work Damnedto Fame by James Knowlson, who received Beckett's approval for writing his autobiography and moreover, Beckett is said to actively participate in its elaboration. The work is based on the testimonies of Beckett's closest friends, colleagues, family members and people who had direct personal experience with him, as well as the information from official and personal documentation are involved in the book, which is highly appreciated also by scholars, who often directly refer to Knowlson's findings and terms he uses in the work, e. g. the term non-knower or non-can-er (Knowlson 353).
Based on Beckett's autobiography, it is apparent that Beckett's values have their roots in his early life already. The features of his personality were relatively stable, yet still under the influence of own experience, family and friends. In terms of the influence from the side of family, "Beckett became quite fond of his uncle Howard, who played a distinctive role in developing some of the more intellecctual of his own interests when he was in his teens." (Knowlson 9) Bekcett's uncle Howard caused the expansion of Beckett's cultural and intellectual interest. As announced above, Beckett was strongly rational author, although there were a number of clashes with emotions later.
One of the features to be noticed in Beckett's childhood already is a great struggle for independence and individuality: "Sam struggled hard not to be dominated. A streak of stubbornness was added to a strong love of independence. The more his mother tried to make him do things, the more he fought to have his own way." (Knowlson 22) In terms of Beckett's relationship with his parents, he seems to get better with his father, rather than with his strick mother: "Sam seems to have some anxiety with her. All his life. A naughty boy. Of course, he was a bit of a rebel. I remember in the War, the First World War, we only had margarine to eat. And he absolutely refused to eat it." - This also reveals a lot about the situatin of the family during the First World War. May Roe, Beckett's mother, had great expectations from him, yet they were not fully met. "As he grew older, the conflicts became even more tempestuous"
(Knowlson 22) but by time she was giving up to influence him. May herself describes her attitude and behaviour as "savage loving" (Knowlson 22).
However, it is said that "In spite of all these inhibitions and prohibitions, Beckett's childhood was mainly a happy one." (Knowlson 20). On the other hand, one of Beckett's famous utterances is "I had a little talent for happiness." which may be apparent in his work Krapp's last tape, when Krapp, a strongly authobiographical character, is happy to be old and welcomes the closiness of death.
The opinions of Beckett and his mother did not meet also in the field of religious faith. "May Beckett was an assiduous attender at the church and ensured that, from an early age, her two sons accomanied her regularly." (Knowlson 24) From Beckett's childhood already, the critical approach to religion is noticeable. At first it was justified by his struggle for emancipation, lately by his philosophical and critical approach enhanced by own experience and desilusion. Nevertheless, Beckett's approach to God and faith is still a subject of discussions. "Beckett was never happy at having to go to church ... " (Knowlson 24) On the other hand, Beckett's father preferred going to nature. He visited church, where their family friend was working, yet it was noted that "Bill Beckett was not deeply religious" or, as Beckett himself reveals about his father "not a churchman". Beckett's brother Frank went with his mother to Tullow Church, while Samuel and his father were going to church alone." (Knowlson 24) Based on Beckett's attitude, it is apparent that he strongly opposed to dogma and blind obedience, since religious faith was one of many features, from which he was keeping certain critical or possibly 'rational' detachment. A reason to this may be the one, he himself was strongly open-minded, which is the value he admired also about other people.
"Sam used to ride to schol on a bicycle so tiny that other children laughed at him as he pedalled furiously past. His pride was hurt by their laughter and, many decades later, he could still remember what it felt like to be an object of mockery" (Knowlson 25). It is apparent how sensitive Beckett's personality was, especially with regard to the fact that even after a long time, he was still able to recall the events which had harmful effects on his self-esteem. Beckett was highly sensitive and perceptive person; a proof may be found within From an Abandoned Work: "The sky was about to fall in twilight. […] So back with the head bowed, waiting for snail, slug or warm, and with great love in heart for everything which is motionless and which lies in the earth by roots …" (Vrba, Šťastné dny 17) this lyrical testimony and apparent sensitivity presents a starting position for almost philosophical reflection.
Beckett's love for solitude, individuality and kind of detachment is described in the testimony "He was a thoughtful child. He was very fond of being alone, at his happiest when he could curl up alone with, at first, a picture book or, later, a proper book to read. (Knowlson 26). By keeping certain distance form the society, he was given a chance to delve into the thoughts and meditate over 'philosophical' issues, or at least reflect on the events he experienced with certain detachment, which he kept for the rest of his life.
Beckett's good friend Alfred Péron claimed that "Beckett still went into a period of growing introspection, depression and withdrawal. This probably resulted from a combination of factors: a natural tendency from childhood to sit back, observe and listen, nothing the oddities of what others said and the idiosyncrasies of follies of their behaviour together with a keen awareness of his own intelligence and sensitivity." (Knowlson 66). All this is said to "contribute to Beckett's success as a writer" (Knowlson 66) The utterances stated above may contribute to previewing Beckett as strongly sensitive, intellectual individualist. Later, he isolated himself in the cottage in Ussy-sur-Marne, where he spent whole days in silence "With no paper before him, no intention to write, he took pelasure in following the course of the sun across the sky:
" 'There is always something to listen to' he says. So Beckett didn't experience silence as silence: it was attention."1 Althought Beckett was an intensely private man, he did not find it difficult to talk about his work or reveal what stands behind it. He always seems to be involved in discussions about art and literature, yet he protected and highly valued his private matters.
One of the unhappy events which deeply influenced Beckett was a loss of his father, after which he had to undergo a treatment in Tavistock Hospital. Beckett's father, William Beckett, was described by Samuel's brother Frank as "terrific character, a charmer, a real charmer ... Tremendously energetic, large in figure, heavily built." (Knowlson 10) He is also said to have "highly developed sense of humour, a ready wit, and a bonhomie that more sensitive souls found somewhat overbearing; this was accompanied by a fiery temper that could flare up quickly fom time to time." Beckett himself claimed about his father he was "absolutely non-intellectual," and left school at the age of fifteen.
The relationship of Beckett and his father was described by a family member Sheila as follows: "They were absolutely tuned in". As for the reflection in his work, "One of the most moving images in Beckett's late prose is that of an old man and a boy walking hand in hand across the foothills." Before May Roe (S. Beckett's mother), William Beckett fell in love with Eva Murphy, a daughter of wealthy Catholic William Murphy. Being Protestant, her parents disapproved on their relationship, her father "would never talk to her again, if she married Will Beckett. It ruined both their lives. Bill never got over it, never and neither did mother. (Knowlson 13). This intolerance in religious faith even brought William to Adelaide Hospital with depression, where he meets May Roe from respectable Protestant family. At this point, the religous faith may be seem as feature causing the unhappiness and break of a relationship. This also could have contributed to William's refusive and critical approach to religion which he had in common with Beckett. As mentioned already, William's attitude was more transcendentalistic, i. e. in terms of concepting God.
The relationship of William Beckett and May Roe is described as follows: "The impression given by Bill and May as a couple was of a marriage that was never seriously under strain but was based on habit as much as on affection, with each of them, increasingly, pursuing his or her own interests." (Knowlson 13). In his works, Beckett often operates with the theme of habit as a feature destroying the relationship, since it contributes to its stereotypical nature, yet it also keeps the characters together. Certain influence which Beckett carried from his family may thus be suggested an influential feature in his writing.
Beckett's father died in 1933 - the year, which become critical for Beckett, since he also lost his love, his cousin Peggy Sinclair, who died of tuberculosis. Beckett's mother, after loss of her husband fell into affective heartache. Beckett started to suffer from depression, insomnia and palpitation. These symptoms did not occur in Beckett's case for the first time. "Insomnia was only one of a disturbing set of physical symptoms that began to afflict Beckett at this time. In April 1926, while he was still living at Foxrock, he first experienced what he later came to describe as "the old internal combustion heart". (Knowlson 64). Beckett eventually spent two years in Tavistock Centre in London. Another significant point is that Beckett experienced the death of all the members of his immediate family - at first his father, then mother and finally his brother Frank.