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Jamese Joyce's Influence on Beckett's Work



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4. 2. Jamese Joyce's Influence on Beckett's Work


The relationship between Joyce and Beckett could also be conceptualized negatively, i. e. suggesting Beckett was kind of servant or slave to Joyce, since, due to Joyce's failing vision, Beckett was reading to him aloud for long hours. Therefore, the polemics could be led whether Beckett concepts his Waiting for Godot and Endgame (in which the characters of master and his servant are displayed) as an alegorical confession related to his friendship with James Joyce.

However, Joyce's influence on Beckett was immense one. Beckett has been influenced by him till middle 1930s. But since this time, quite different approach begun to be noticeable and it is said that "it took him until after the Second World War to discover his own 'road'. (Knowlson 106). To find out his specific style of writing and own poetics, Beckett must have had developed certain topics, motives, attitudes and also values which were standing behind his work.

This influence of Joyce on Beckett is apparent till the time of Second World War. As Beckett said, "I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding." (Knowlson 303) At this point, Beckett claims that "James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer trying to leave out as much as I can." Based on this approach, it may be noticed that Beckett's minimalism has its roots in need to negate Joyce's approach. Again, it is also the concept of Beckett's work which brings us to his need for individualism and independence, i. e. in relation to the fear from remaining Joyce's shadow, considered as his co-worker at the best. The minimalistic concept suggested above became the basement for Beckett's most significant plays, especially those belonging to the field of the Theatre of The Absurd.

5. Features Forming Beckett's Own Poetics and Values


As suggested above, Beckett's own poetics was being formed after Second World War, so it is possible to presume that not only the negation of Joyce's approach was significant feature in terms of froming Beckett's own literary style, but also an experience from Second World War may be considered significant feature, especially at the level of Beckett's protagonists, spatial setting, motives and themes.

Appart from the influence from family and friends, there is a number of features in Beckett's life, which played significant role and have contributed to his development as a person and as an author. As mentioned above, Beckett found his own, specific, original style of writing, lying in rawness of perception in post-war period, which was the time he was working with Irish Red Cross. "It was there that he witnessed real devastation and misery: buildings - each one someone's home - reduced to rubble; possessions blown to pieces; a ward full of patients ill with tuberculosis, bringing back painful memories of Peggy." (350 Knowlson). Seeing the people deprived of possession, it was a time to think about own values, which neglected the importance of possession and suggested the idea of dependency often overlapping with the need to have someone and not to be left to face own suffering alone. And finally, it is also the absurdity and disillusionment making people search for the reason of their suffering.


5. 1. Experience from Second World War


As has already been announced, the Second World War played a crucial role in forming Beckett's attitude, style and 'philosophy'. When the war broke out, Beckett was staying in Ireland. As he said, he prefered "France at war to Ireland at peace"3. In January 1941 James Joyce died and Beckett decided to join the Parisian resistance group. At this time, he was with his wife to be, Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumensil, who was also a part of resistance movement and supported Beckett in his writing career. To escape from Nazi persecution, they hide in village Roussillon, where they lived as farmers and almost in complete poverty. As stated above, one of the most influential features was Beckett's involvement in Irish Red Cross. The devastated landscape had a great influence on his work and it was permanently imprinted also in his mind. After war, in 1948, he already had finished many of his prose works (e. g. Murphy or Molloy). The same year he started to write his novel Malone dies which meant nights of writing, when Beckett was left without friends, at the edge of poverty. To find relief, he started to write the play Waiting for Godot. In 1954 his brother Frank died, which was an incentive to write play Endgame. It is possible to see that Beckett's writing in the field of drama started after Second World War and another unhappy events e. g. loss of his complete family, experience with poverty, evidence of suffering and destruction he witnessed after Second World War, especially during his work with Irish Red Cross, the struggle for independence which he expressed by joining French Ressistance Movement aimed against Nazi occupation, as well as at his purely personal filed, when Beckett was finding his own style and attitude.

5. 2. Vanity of Material Things


Although Beckett came from a higher social class as mentioned within his autobiography, several times in his life he found himself to live in poverty. During the First World War as mentioned above or after his studies when he was dependent on his mother, who finally refused to support financially his bohemian life. Beckett also faced the poverty in Rousillon. The struggle for independence on his mother's support in opposite to Beckett's need to be supported by her brings the clash of the independence and materialism. These experiences have influenced his work at the level of characters: "He became acutely aware at this time in his life of the poverty, pain and suffering that were visible almost everywhere around him in the big city. […] Now, no longer returning home to Foxrock at the end of the day, he began to wander around the streets, observing how wretched the lives of so many of his fellow men could be: beggars, tramps, ex-soldiers wounded or gassed in the First World War, the blind paralytic ..." (Knowlson 66, 67)

Obviously, the characters mentioned above are the protagonists to be found in Beckett's plays, especially those written in the field of The Theatre of the Absurd. Moreover, in Beckett's plays the materialism or social status does not bring the compensation when a man has to face absurd fate and suffering (for example masters Hamm or Pozzo who suffer regardless their social status). In the play Happy Days, where the protagonist Winnie has only a bag with few things, which she values very high, the antimaterialistic approach is also suggested; although she seems to be dependent on those things, they are ordinary yet they render kind of significance.


5. 3. Unanimism: An Individual Way of Collective Suffering


The struggle for independence suggested above proved Beckett to be a very strong individualist, yet his conceptualization as an outsider or a person struggling for deliberate separation from the society would be incorrect. To express and describe the realation of individuality and society in terms of Beckett's approach and thinking, a school of thought, which originated at the beginning of 20th century, may serve as means for understanding. "During his final undergraduate year, inspired by Rudmose-Brown's enthusiasm, he had become very keen on the early poetry of Pierre-Jean Jouve and Jules Romains and interested in the literary movement called "Unanimisme" that centred on Romains and his friends. Mainly two novels by Jouve are significant: Le Monde désert and Polina which are said to have influenced Beckett at a high level.

As for Le Monde desert, the work displays the relationship of artist: a painter Jacques Todi, who is a homosexual. He has a model - a son of a pastor from Geneva who eventually commits a suicide. One of the crucial ideas is the clash of what is apparent and what is 'hidden' in terms of the inner life of the protagonists. As for the feature of homosexuality, the protagonists of Bekcetts' works are also in some cases interpreted as homosexuals (as was suggested in the relationship of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot). The utterances and scenes which could possibly be inferring this kind of understanding, are mainly the frequent usage of requests in which the characters ask each other for quite intimte gesture ("Kiss me" in Endgame, "Let's hug each other" in Waiting for Godot, or the question in Endgame: "You don't love me? - You loved me once.", taking place within a dialogue of male protagonists). In another perspective on these requests, the interpretation of seeing the gesture rather as socializing act lowering the suffrage may be suggested. In relation to the work


Le Monde désert, an interesting paradox is the display of the son of a pastor, who commits a suicide - at this point the religious and existential features can be seen to clash mutually. Pastor, a symbol of religion, and his son committing suicide - purely existential act. The contrast of motives of prayer and suicide is quite frequently present in Beckett's plays as well.

The aforementioned movement Unanimisme allegedly "starts from the writers' intense feeling that they belong to some kind of collective existence: the life of a city, a barracks, a church service, a crowded theatre auditorium or a café, for example." (Knowlson 75) This concept could seemingly 'endanger' Beckett's idea of individuality; thus the question may be raised what has attracted Beckett about collective concept: "It might appear surprising at first that Beckett, who was to become so much of an individualist, should have taken a special interest in the early Unaniminimist poems." (Knowlson 76). When searching for an explanation, it is possible to refer to the concept and definition of Unanimism which is said to be based on the words unas meaning one and animus meaning spirit, the free translation of the term would be one soul, one spirit. Therefore, in spite of the seemingly superficial concept of previewing the society as crowd, it is possible to claim that unanimism works mainly at mental level.

In times of war this movement operates with the idea of loss of trust in a man. It "reminds us which features should form the basement of human nature and in which regards this human nature is embezzled in times of war - i. e. solidarity, tolerance, understanding for others etc."4 Based on the ideas of Unanimism, the collective spirit may be interpreted as the whole humankind, especially with the refference to M. Heidegger's ideas of the apocryphal being and throwness of a man into the world. In Beckett's philosophy, this is one of crucial parts. An incorporation into the crowd may be binding, unsolicited and one is left to be a subject to this "throwness", yet on the other hand it gives one the sense of belonging, as well as it implies the idea that the members of the group have to face the same problem - with individual differences in its concept, perception and experience, yet without difference in terms of basic concept of human being and human nature, since they all have to face being thrown into the world.

The idea should be underlined that collective does not have to be viewed as necessarily related to the superficial point of view, implying negative features such as loss of identity, limitation of personal freedom or uncritical point of view etc. Collective may be concepted as a feature related to the aforementioned apocryphal being; unnanimism then connects this being at the basic existential level and especially, due to the focus on interior life of a man, it is possible to consider (keeping the antimaterialistic approach in mind, where there is not any possiblity for compensation by social status or possession) certain equality of people at very basic level of their existence. The individuals are connected by the inauthentic being - the feature they have in common. At the same time, it is possible to talk about huge individuality with a refference to different, subjective ways to cope with this inauthentic being and problematics of being thrown into the world (an illustration of this concept within Beckett's work may be seen especially in Act Without Words II displaying two different personalities, when one is well-organized, reasonable and the other one is more hot-tempered, confused).

Beckett himself had the experience with isolation, to which he was forced by the circumstances, yet at the same time it was apparently permanent part of his personality: "the solitude of a man who sits unhappily at his table feeling the sadness of his isolation from others is not so far removed from that of Beckett's own "man in a room" in the late plays or prose works (e. g. character of Krapp). But Beckett's solitaire has not merely reconciled himself to his solitude. He has actively sought it out, having found no consolation in the outside world. The mood was close enough to Beckett's own feelings as he sat in his room at Trinity for it to appeal to him." (Knowlson 76) In order not to preview Beckett as to be deliberately isolated it is claimed that "In spite of his shyness and love for solitude, Beckett always seemed able to make friends" (Knowlson 78). The theme of frienship is a significant feature not only in terms of his life, but it is very much, although in a modified form, reflected and presented in his work.

One of the persons, who had a great influence on Beckett, was his professor Rudmose-Brown who influenced Beckett's love for poetry. It was him who supported Beckett in the beginnings of his literary creation and Beckett was "encouraged to start writing creatively" (Knowlson 50). His professor has also influenced Beckett's attitude to collectivism or ideology: "Rudmose-Brown's memoirs show him to have been a staunch believer in individual freedom: "that is why I am neither Fascist nor Communist, Imperialist nor Socialist," he wrote. " He totally opposed to any kind of narrow patriotism or nationalism." (Knowlson 50). The danger of pidgeholding is suggested also later, in Beckett's first work, i. e. essay on Joyce called Dante … Bruno. Vico … Joyce.

In conslusion, in terms of the issue of individuality and collective concept of the society, Beckett himself is a strong individualist, yet he is still aware of existence of a certain system in the society, in which the individuals are initially interconnected. This system could be understood under Heidegger's term of apocryphal being, in which the people are forced to face their own existence - in Beckett's concept the elements such as absurd fate, limitation of a man and his knowledge or cognition are present as well. Generally, in concept of people's mindset, being open-minded, having the trust in own opinions and being able to think independently were the values which Beckett highly appreciated. Appart from Heidegger's apocryphal being, it is also the issue of dependency on someone which fits into the context of repetitiveness of human existence and mutual dependence on humankind - existential as well as emotional.


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