Beckett and Decay (Continuum Literary Studies)
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This is a study of richness rather than depletion. The subject is not a simple one by any means, but White has managed to steer clear of allowing the difficulties to complicate her explication - a rare talent, and a very welcome one. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book!
Industry Reviews "Beckett and Decay offers a cogent and reader-friendly overview of the physical, mental, spiritual, and linguistic aspects of decay throughout Beckett's oeuvre. The Body Infirm; 2. Old Age: The Dictatorship of Time; 3. The Decaying Landscape; 4.
The Trap of Memory; 6. Tired Minds; 7. Perceptions of Insanity; 8. The "Common Knowledge" section now includes a "Series" field. Enter the name of the series to add the book to it. Works can belong to more than one series. In some cases, as with Chronicles of Narnia , disagreements about order necessitate the creation of more than one series. Tip: If the series has an order, add a number or other descriptor in parenthesis after the series title eg. By default, it sorts by the number, or alphabetically if there is no number. If you want to force a particular order, use the character to divide the number and the descriptor.
So, " 0 prequel " sorts by 0 under the label "prequel. Series was designed to cover groups of books generally understood as such see Wikipedia: Book series. However, in biblical terms we can be saved from our defectiveness, but in the Beckettian world there is no salvation and no release from our suffering. If we are born only to return to the grave immediately, then life, which is only an instant, one fleeting moment, does not allow time for youth. Perhaps this is why Beckett nearly always presents his characters as aged, due to the fact that from the moment of birth we begin the ageing process and start to deteriorate, and youth is such a fleeting experience that it is over before we can acknowledge it.
However, it is also possible to suggest that degeneration is an inevitable consequence of physical being, implying that the degenerative gene is present from the moment of conception and the passing of time results in its manifestation. These afflictions illustrate that this day, Pozzo and Lucky have decayed a little further and are effectively one day closer to the grave, where Lucky will become blind and Pozzo will go dumb. Thus Beckett is endeavouring to illustrate the process of physical decline, its mysteriousness and its inevitability. It is important to remember, however, that these afflictions do not prevent the characters from going on.
These adversities may give them hope, with the knowledge that the body is declining; therefore it is possible they go on, not as an attempt to survive, but as a need to reach the next day, where perhaps they will encounter more limitations, and consequently be reassured that they are one step closer to the grave and nearer the end of their suffering. The afflictions portrayed in this play are clearly more serious, and the experience of transition from the exterior world of Godot to the interior world of Hamm, illustrates the encroaching and claustrophobic atmosphere that these characters must endure, as they further degenerate in a world that appears almost hopeless.
Beckett sets out to represent all the discomforts, the miseries, the indignity and the tragic absurdity of physical being. There is a presiding sense of doom and physical decline here, and it appears as if the end of the world is near, or as if very little life remains after some form of holocaust. When we first meet Hamm he is covered with an old sheet, perhaps better described as a shroud, denoting the idea that he exists somewhere between life and death: a state of limbo in which he and the other characters are among the last survivors.
Hamm, however, does not only have the affliction of paralysis, he is also blind, consequently projecting his already bleak world into complete and absolute darkness, thereby distancing him further from the other characters and spiritual regeneration. He therefore inhabits the darkness in which he condemned Mother Pegg to die. However, to view it as prognostic is to be surely disappointed. This is after all only the beginning of the play and a world in which Beckett does not permit the luxury of finishing.
We are again presented with the blind master and his servant, with the role of the servant this time being played by Clov. It is clear by now that no one is beyond the reach of some form of limitation as so often with Beckett the whole The Body Infirm 13 situation is conceived of in terms of physical negatives , and Clov is plagued by the condition of not being able to sit down. The Beckettian protagonist resents the wretched physical existence that has been thrust upon him.
Beckett observes with quizzical wonderment the human capacity for going on despite the great physical adversity that we face. There is no explanation for our condition and indeed no redemption from it. Nagg and Nell are physically maimed too, as they are no longer in possession of their legs, and they are also afflicted by the deterioration of their hearing and vision. Indeed, Beckett views physical being as valueless, due to the fact that from the moment of birth we are programmed to degenerate.
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It is evident that these characters are incarcerated; they are imprisoned by their own physical condition coupled with the bins that also confine them. From the vigour of youth through to the slowing down of middle age and on to the indignity of old age, our physical story is one of decay, decline and degeneration. Each stage of life represents a stage of deterioration, and Nagg and Nell perhaps represent the most advanced phase, as the grotesqueness of their appearance forces us to acknowledge the futility of the human condition, and the unattractiveness of the aged physical form.
Hamm is clearly pessimistic. He fears birth, children, growth and regeneration, as he recognizes the suffering that plagues existence. We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom!
Our ideals! Physical degeneration is evident from this statement, but it also conveys a sense of internal dejection. It has been suggested that the room depicted in this play represents the inside of a skull, with the two windows consequently denoting the eyes. Therefore it is possible to suggest that the physical and mental components of decay ambiguously merge in Endgame. Hamm may be described as being relatively sadistic, due to the fact that he appears to take satisfaction in the knowledge that others also endure suffering. It is interesting that the medication Hamm takes in the morning to revive himself, and in the evening as a sedation, thereby providing relief from the pain he endures, is slowly running out.
Sex cannot be viewed as an act of love, because it would not be a loving act to bring a child into such desolation. Life becomes the affliction, which the physical body must endure, and to be on earth is to be condemned. The problem is not in dying, but in how to reach death, and these characters endeavour to find their way in this world where the journey becomes the prime objective, and not the theory behind the reasons for being.
The Body Infirm 15 However, it also brings despair to think that the journey has not yet finished and the suffering will not yet cease. In this world of degradation and decay, which is rife with physical handicaps, the possibility of regeneration does not provide hope, but rather produces a feeling of dejection, in the knowledge that life will continue, and death will remain elusive. Memory plays a significant role in this text; however, Molloy cannot be described as an omniscient narrator, and due to the ambiguous nature of his memory, we find ourselves entering a world which appears almost devoid of meaning.
From the beginning it is evident that Molloy has severely deteriorated. He begins his narrative possessing no teeth, enormous knees, one stiff leg and asthma, plus other weak points that he chooses not to mention; and as his journey progresses so too does the degeneration. Again we are reminded that, in this world, life is not a gift to be cherished but a condemnation to be endured. Or perhaps this is another instance of the desire to end, to reach a state of non-consciousness. Perhaps an invisible umbilical cord runs throughout this text, forever connecting Molloy to his 16 Beckett and Decay mother and indeed, Molloy to Moran.
This declaration implies that these impediments are not an encumbrance to Molloy and suggests that he actually desires further adversities, thereby calling into question the implications of decay itself. This description is indeed appropriate, as the deterioration of the physical being is clearly presented through the representation of Molloy in his final stages. By the end of his narrative Molloy is crawling, almost childlike, endeavouring to continue his journey despite his physical incapability. This image of Molloy crawling through the forest evidently inspired Beckett, as he again returned to the idea in his novel How It Is, where the forest is replaced by a sea of mud and the crawling becomes all the more difficult, as the protagonist wrestles with the arduousness of the human condition, endeavouring to breathe amidst the mud of existence.
Similar to his predecessor, Moran also embarks upon a journey in an attempt to establish the exact location of Molloy. Therefore, although the text is divided into two sections, the parallels that begin to emerge between the two parts make the ambiguous quality of the novel more apparent, and the unity of the narrative more complete. Similar to Molloy, Moran begins his narrative suffering from swollen painful knees, with morphine tablets proving to be his favourite sedative.
To be born with bad teeth is an image that appears almost grotesque; babies are obviously born without teeth, therefore to be born already possessing decayed teeth is an image that Beckett may use to illustrate the leap from birth to old age in one instant. Beckett himself suffered from oral and dental problems,4 and we question whether dental decay is perhaps a metaphor for wider human physical decline.
However, it is evident that as his journey progresses so too does his degeneration. In a speech that offers a paradoxical viewpoint on the implications of decay, Moran states: And it would not surprise me if the great classical paralyses were to offer analogous and perhaps even still more unspeakable satisfactions. To be literally incapable of motion at last, that must be something! My mind swoons when I think of it. And mute into the bargain! And perhaps as deaf as a post! And who knows as blind as a bat! And as likely as not your memory a blank!
And just enough brain intact to allow you to exult! And to dread death like a regeneration. Beckett — This speech clearly illustrates physical decay and its advantages; for Moran to be in this stage of physical wreckage would be for him, paradoxically, cathartic, and a condition that he would aspire to.
Death would be a form of regeneration, as it would provide release from the physical body and the afflictions that pertain to it. Due to the fact that Moran welcomes physical adversity it becomes apparent why he dreads mortality. Moran is clearly not burdened with the severity of afflictions which affect Molloy; however, the similarities between the two men are too extensive to be ignored.
Although Moran never actually finds Molloy, it may be suggested that he discovers him internally; his search is therefore complete, as he intrinsically discovers himself. If we are to view both chapters as one complete narrative and change the sequence around, it is possible to suggest that Moran may represent an early Molloy, resting on the precipice of degeneration.
And if Molloy and Moran are to be viewed as one and the same, it is evident that Beckett has inverted the conventional image by presenting us with the older persona, followed by the younger. Of course, the stones themselves will not evade degeneration, as the sucking process will ultimately cause them to erode.
Psychoanalysts believe that during early development, which is described as the early oral phase, one encounters the stage of sucking and enjoyment, essentially a drinking of the mother. The first element is therefore benign, with the latter being described as more aggressive. Moran therefore inhabits the later oral phase, while Molloy, due to his sucking tendencies, remains in the benign stage; therefore the image of old and young is once again inverted. Due to the fact that Molloy is advanced in years, although still inhabiting the early oral phase, it may be suggested that he represents the old person who reverts to his childhood.
Beckett is enabled therefore to illustrate youth and ageing in one instant and highlight the brevity of life. Through their physical impediments, this novel illustrates that for these characters, decay can paradoxically be a form of regeneration. To be totally incapacitated would, for Moran, be a cathartic experience. However, to actually die and be reborn into this world, or into the next, is something these characters evidently dread, as death is not an assurance of termination. This narrative should not be viewed as a conventional story, but rather as an experience or set of emotions through which Beckett illustrates the unreality of reality.
In Watt there is a cornucopia of evidence to substantiate the theory that for Beckett the body is a constant source of discomfort, pain and indignity. Watt himself is described as having poor healing skin, symptomatic perhaps of a blood disorder, with the result that he possesses running sores in various parts of his body. The inconvenience of the physical state is highlighted in this text, as the break down of the human body erodes the erroneous ideal of the body beautiful. Beckett The body is a constant source of discomfort and we basically do our best each day to placate the pain we experience.
Watt, similar to Estragon, suffers immensely each day due to the ill-fitting nature of his footwear; and again we see the problems associated with the physical structure, as even clothing it can ultimately lead to discomfort. However what is interesting is that, as the work progresses, not only do the physical impediments continue, but we actually see the body fundamentally disintegrate until we are left with just body parts; for example Mouth in Not I, the heads in Play, Winnie in Happy Days. The recognizable human frame becomes reduced to such a point that it ultimately becomes redundant, and it is here that Beckett turns his attentions to the workings of the mind.
His face was bloody, his hand also, and thorns were in his scalp. His resemblance, at that moment, to the Christ believed by Bosch, then hanging in Trafalgar Square, was so striking, that I remarked it. Beckett is undoubtedly drawing parallels with Christ to highlight the intensity of our suffering on earth. And this suffering is perhaps best illustrated through the portrayal of the Lynch family.
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Beckett uses 11 pages in total to give an account of the afflictions pertaining to this family; and through his use of extremities, he effectively illustrates the ineffectuality of the physical being. Blindness, paralysis, and weaknesses in the head and chest, are only a few of the adversities affecting the Lynch family. Beckett 98 This description of the Lynch family continues for approximately ten pages.
The body is portrayed as being mechanical, a functioning organ, which ultimately becomes a hindrance. Although an extreme representation of physical infirmities, this episode essentially conveys the reality of the physical condition. We can clearly see the numerous problems that can affect the body and recognize how susceptible the physical frame is to illness.
A mass of bones, flesh and organs, the body is essentially programmed to decay and there is no escaping this reality; all Beckett does is illustrate this truth. Perhaps this is why Murphy endeavours to live only within his mind, to escape the suffering of the physical reality. Tailpiece Old age is essentially the condition that awaits us all. Unless removed from existence by accidental death, illness or suicide, we are assured that, despite physical prowess during youth, our advancement in years will ultimately condemn us to mental deterioration and physical breakdown.
It is the only reality that exists before death. This play, written in early , although deceptively simple, illustrates the severity of ageing in an atmosphere where isolation takes precedence, and memories serve to reinforce the horror of the present. And the juxtaposition of the old man on stage, with the voice of an earlier self, highlights the deteriorating influence imposed by the passing of time and the inability to curtail the process of ageing.
We wonder if Krapp would prefer to age on and die, or recover his lost youth. The year-old we see before us perhaps recognizes the limitations of his age and acknowledges the reality that his physical frame may not Old Age: The Dictatorship of Time 23 endure another year, thereby appearing resolute in his acceptance that his present recording may ultimately be his final effort. The age 69 is significant, as Beckett was acutely aware that the Bible allots us three score years and ten, suggesting therefore that Krapp is rapidly approaching death. Knowlson and Pilling 81 Krapp, at a point of physical and intellectual decline, is condemned to an isolated existence within his den, where darkness and light appear representative of the contrasting nature of the succession of selves, and may also imply the Cartesian separation of body and mind.
Beckett and Decay : Kathryn White :
There are certainly factors in this drama that appear beyond explanation. The disordered grey hair, laborious walk and difficulty in hearing suggest an individual who may be described as a physical mess, resulting from the uncontrollable breakdown of the body; describing Krapp as hard of hearing is undoubtedly ironic as this is a play that dramatizes the art of listening.
The rusty black trousers which are too short, the rusty black sleeveless waistcoat that complements the grimy white shirt, and the dirty white boots portray an image of dishevelment, and are indicative of an individual who no longer takes pride in his appearance, viewing the preservation of the self as inconsequential within a body subject to the degradation of old age. The tatty garments are therefore representative of a body that is equally in a state of disrepair and disintegration. And, although Krapp cannot in reality return to the past whence he came, he can in theory, with the use of the tape recorder, relive those memories which are perhaps best left undisturbed.
The tape recorder creates the illusion that time is reversible, that we can go back as well as forward. This is of course true for many Beckett characters; however, in this drama the past is prevalent and very much accessible. One questions the desirability of being able to access moments in time, which ultimately transport us from the reality of the present and can only temporarily provide relief from the individual that we have become, and the life in which we now exist.
These tapes provide escapism for Krapp and yet they also reinforce the horror of his current situation, as the voices from the dark provide the only source of company.
There is a very real sense of the human tragedy, as the drama illustrates that our few moments of happiness are ultimately transient and cannot be recaptured. Here Beckett illustrates the cyclical quality of life, demonstrating that the old individual often reverts back to childish tendencies. The mind and the body are therefore at odds, as the mind may adopt a youthful approach, while the body perhaps declines to function with youthful vigour. These memories are illustrations of incidents in which dark and light are mingled, reminding one of the Manichean theory: a dichotomy of spirit and flesh associated with light and dark, and perhaps representative of the Cartesian separation of body and mind; a separation which is very much apparent in this drama, as the mind has essentially been preserved, while the body has been condemned to deterioration.
We may therefore suggest that the effects of old age have condemned Krapp physically, but not mentally; and yet this argument would prove erroneous. It is the tragedy of everything becoming the victim of oblivion; the past can seem like a receding dream which eventually fades utterly. With his hand cupping his ear, Krapp leans towards the machine, almost embracing it, in order to hear the words that it will emit, and hence, the irony of the situation becomes evident.
The ageing process cannot be avoided and, despite our reluctance to acknowledge that we essentially have no control over our bodies, old age confirms the horror of physical breakdown. The stark contrast of the vision we see before us and the voice of the year-old Krapp is indeed striking. The voice appears foreign, as it emanates from the darkness, almost ghost-like in its preservation, and we find it difficult to equate the voice we hear with the man we see.
The separation of the grain from the husks is perhaps representative of the separation of light from darkness, or mind from body. At this early age he comments on his old weakness, which presumably constitutes his need for alcohol and bananas. Therefore at the age of 39, it is evident that Krapp was physically deteriorating, despite being intellectually at his peak, or thereabouts. The aspirations and the resolutions he once possessed serve to reinforce the futility of his current existence, as no longer does he aspire to anything, bitter perhaps in his acknowledgement that old age has robbed him of youth.
Krapp does not show signs of coming to terms with old age, as he chooses to continually revert to the past, unable and unwilling to live in the present. His plans for a less engrossing sexual life appear strange at the age of 27, suggesting perhaps that he is physically past his prime. The constipation, flagging pursuit of happiness and derisive attitude towards his youth suggest that at 27, Krapp was not only physically past his prime but significantly old before his time. The vision at the end of the jetty is not elaborated upon because Krapp chooses not to hear it, thereby suggesting that it is too painful a recollection, or perhaps just no longer of any interest.
Krapp chose to sacrifice his life for his work, and the renunciation of love prompted a move away from the physical in order to pursue the spiritual. Ironically, despite this sacrificial decision, Krapp failed to benefit spiritually, intellectually or physically, therefore proving that it was all in vain.
The isolation, which he once welcomed and yet now plagues him, was of his own making, and the belief that he could triumph over the ephemeral nature of the physical body by achieving immortality through art, has essentially condemned him to a failed existence. The memorable equinox, which proves no longer interesting, is overshadowed by the incident on the lake. The Beckett man probably desires to be loved but is fundamentally incapable of loving.
The poignancy of this passage is indeed evident and, as Krapp continues to play it, we recognize his inability to progress beyond the past. Old age, isolation, lost love and artistic failure leaves Krapp with essentially nothing to live for, thereby suggesting that his present recording will constitute his last. The sexual encounter with Fanny illustrates the awkwardness of copulation for the Beckettian protagonist, and portrays the defective nature of the body in old age, as it essentially becomes physically defunct. It appears that the elderly Krapp still needs the occasional moment of sexual gratification; however, it is sordid, unattractive and virtually unpleasing.
He is declining into impotence, the sexual decay functioning as a barometer of a wider malaise. When there was a chance of happiness. Not with the fire in me now. However, with no chance of reversal, he is unyielding in his desire for termination, as no longer can he endure the life of an aged man, subject to deterioration, and condemned to an existence of self-imposed exile. Beckett used this technology to convey, once again, his perception of the human condition, illustrating the futility of existence and the degradation of old age.
The radio medium affords Beckett the opportunity to allow his listeners to actually hear the sounds of old age, the moans, groans and laboured breathing. The cyclical quality of the drama is evident, as it begins and ends with the tune Death and the Maiden, an appropriate choice for a play that contains abundant references to the sick and the dying, not all of whom are advanced in years. Opening with Maddy Rooney, the drama immediately forces us to acknowledge the unreliability of the body and the inability to prevent it from deteriorating through the ageing process.
The sound of her dragging feet illustrates that to be physical is to be cursed, and it conveys the immense encumbrance of the physical body. The body almost becomes objectified, appearing at odds with the mind. Therefore, even if the mind is unaffected by the ageing process, we cannot prevent the deterioration of its physical vehicle, and so we may be condemned to witness our physical decay while remaining mentally sound.
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The unreliable Irish weather may therefore be equated with our physical self, suggesting that, although it may start out promising, we can be sure that it will not last long. It is not surprising that Mr Tyler curses the wet Saturday afternoon of his conception. Therefore, if there exists an unconscious drive toward death from the moment of birth, we may assume that none of us are really fully living. Here Beckett illustrates the absurdity of bodily maturity. Young girls prepare for their bodies to change in preparation for childbirth and, after enduring years of monthly agony, their bodies endure modification in rejection of the possibility of procreation.
We may assume that Dan Rooney is greatly advanced in years, appearing older than Maddy and suffering from the affliction of blindness, and to some degree memory loss, as he fails to remember that it is his birthday. Although there is much comedy in this episode, we also recognize the tragedy of a man who is relying on his daily routine to get him through life.
As the play culminates with the announcement that the little child has fallen out of the carriage, we question whether Dan was responsible. The late prose work entitled Ill Seen Ill Said written initially in French between — exemplifies the horror of old age, illustrating once again the isolation which many of the aged are condemned to, and the hardship of enduring a body which no longer functions effectively.
Throughout the text 30 Beckett and Decay Beckett alludes to the irony of human existence, and the inescapability of suffering, as we witness in this work the horrific prolongation of a life. She appears to be a sky gazer, committed to watching the morning and evening star, symbols perhaps of the birth and death of life. Her white hair, and faintly bluish white face, provide the only contrast to the dimness of the cabin. Her face, the typical Beckettian countenance, suggests the coldness of death, and she takes her place in the gallery of Beckettian visages.
Perhaps we should place her in the same category as May from Footfalls, as she is just about here, condemned to linger, and therefore always ill seen. A sense of illness pervades the story and indeed the words that tell it. The enigmatic quality of the twelve figures serves to complement the equivocal nature of the text. Perhaps these figures are the harbingers of death, resolute in their desire to take her from this existence, alleviating her of the confines of the physical being. Appearing similar to the tombstone that captivates her, she endures the process of degeneration.
She is perhaps mostly not of this world. Even at our most vital Beckett views us as ghosts and therefore re-conceptualizes death through his portrayal of presence and absence. A long time. Was not therefore to be seen going out or coming in. The pastures are perhaps suggestive of youth and fertility, as Beckett illustrates the inability of remaining youthful and the unavoidability of the transition to the infertility of old age and the zone of stones. The visits to the stone are habitual, but they are also little journeys towards her own finality; she longs to be among the stones, as the cabin represents her provisional home, not her ultimate one.
She is ultimately a decaying shadow of her former self. Dressed in black, she wears the clothes of mourning, providing a stark contrast to the whiteness of the snow.
Again we wonder if this old woman is still of this earth? Or does she perhaps exist in some other realm? Her face, which is perhaps best equated with the death mask, appears full of contradictions, due to the fact that despite her age, it is lacking in wrinkles. Livid pallor. Not a wrinkle. How serene it seems this ancient mask. Perhaps this is not a study of old age but rather a study of lifelessness. From the waist up. Trunk black rectangle. Nape under frill of black lace. White half halo of hair. Face to the north. Perhaps she is awaiting death; decked out in her black lace she laments her continuance.
Similarly, we too are condemned to wait, forced to view her from behind, we are denied the image of her face and the lifeless quality of her eyes. She appears to be engaging with the tomb, accepting that it does in reality represent her destiny and the place where she will again perhaps be reunited with her loved one. We question if she is becoming a part of the landscape, so deteriorated in her appearance we fail to recognize her womanly features, suggesting that her womanhood has been obliterated by her advance in years. Eros, the principle of life and growth, does not exist in the Beckettian world, as Thanatos, the principle of decay and death, appears prevalent.
The 32 Beckett and Decay many false endings throughout the text function effectively so that the actual reading of the work mimics the slowness of dying and the deceleration of the physical framework attributed to old age. Labouring to continue functioning or perhaps labouring to cease. The mind is not willing and the body is weak. As her steps barely leave a trace and the snow fails to fall on her, we question again whether she is fully here, remaining forever ill seen. We are born to die and everything that comes in between, including the pain, suffering and lost love, is basically worthless.
The ironic juxtaposition of extreme elderliness with extreme youth is evident here. Adorned in black she provides a striking contrast to the purity and whiteness of the lamb, and yet it too will ultimately join with her in the common destiny of death. Therefore Beckett may be implying that old age will condemn us to physical mortality but spiritual oblivion cannot be assured. One last. Grace to breathe that void. The text ends like a prayer, yearning for a fleeting moment to appreciate that one is about to pass into oblivion. Old age is thus like a burden or millstone that we might cast off in death.
Perhaps happiness exists only in that post-death state, when we have one split second to know that death has arrived and released us from the burden of elderliness.
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Chapter 3 The Decaying Landscape warmth of primeval mud impenetrable dark How It Is The Beckett protagonist perhaps finds it difficult to ever escape from the world in which he exists, as ultimately he does not find himself irreconcilable with the environment in which he dwells.
If we look closely at the Beckettian world we fail to locate the beautiful summer days often located in Romanticism for example. Warmth and vitality rarely exist within these landscapes, and the sterility, which has become dominant, offers no hope of renewal. Everything appears to be in decline, as Beckett presents the natural world in a state of degradation. Inside these landscapes, which appear, at times, apocalyptic, the reality of the void becomes even more apparent. The ruination of buildings and the representation of corpses, forces one to view the Beckettian world as almost horrific, where corrosion takes precedence over vitality.
Beckett uses these physical images to represent decay and essentially emphasize the erosion of human life. The environment is therefore confirmation about how these characters feel internally, and we question how life could possibly get any better for them, when the world in which they exist is itself degenerating, with the external erosion emulating their inner decay.
A Piece of Monologue, written in , is chiefly concerned with the notion of death, and the images employed throughout the narrative exemplify the central theme of decline. The speaker appears preoccupied with memories from the past and possesses no imminent future. He exists perhaps somewhere between the physical world and the metaphysical reality of the void, as Beckett returns to his preoccupation with the fragility of life. Sun long sunk behind the larches. New needles turning green. The juxtaposition of the fertility in the outside world, with the darkness invading the room which has just witnessed the birth of new life , is a striking image, illustrating that the fertility within the room is portrayed through darkness and is suggestive of death.
The reality of the external void, encroaching upon his very existence, thereby heightens his ghost-like persona. The black emptiness, in which nothing stirs, prevents the intervention of natural light, and darkness therefore assumes priority by eliminating the effulgence, which would undoubtedly provide some degree of relief.
However, the speaker appears reluctant to fully accept his current situation, and his progression towards the window is perhaps suggestive of his desire to discover some reality within the void that incarcerates his being. He stares out, possibly searching for something to alleviate his suffering, looking for light to infiltrate his darkness, and confirmation that nature is not in a state of decay.
This means of obtaining artificial light cannot endure indefinitely, and as each match extinguishes, his hope of achieving some degree of relief also dwindles, with the flicker of the flame, from barely visible to non-existent, conveying the state that he himself probably aspires to. The isolation, which the speaker conveys through his narrative, is further heightened through his own solitary position on stage, and we can assume that the tale he relays is his own personal monologue. This reminds one very forcibly of Not I where Mouth emphasizes the lack of parental love and the dread of familial love.
The Speaker details this purging of the pictures: Down one after another. Torn to shreds and scattered. Strewn all over the floor. Not at one sweep. No sudden fit of. Ripped from the wall and torn to shreds one by one. Over the years. Years of nights. The years of nights to which the speaker refers, is suggestive of the fact that daylight no longer prevails, and an eternal blackness lingers over this semi-existence.