This study is about the central place of the emotional world in Beckett's writing. Stating that Beckett is ‘primarily about love’, it makes a re-assessment of his influence and immense popularity. The book examines numerous Beckettian texts, arguing that they embody a struggle to remain in contact with a primal sense of internal goodness, one founded on early experience with the mother. Writing itself becomes an internal dialogue, in which the reader is engaged, between a ‘narrative-self’ and a mother.
This introductory chapter discusses the reading of Samuel Beckett's work that centres primarily on love and the need for contact with a primary, loving other. It looks at Beckett's use of the centrality of emotional contact in his work and emphasizes the psychoanalytic features of the present study. This chapter also identifies several other features of the study and notes that it focuses on the earliest relations of the infant and mother.
This chapter provides a basic outline of the psychoanalytical framework that serves as the background of the present study. It first examines a reading of Beckett's dissertation on Proust, and tries to lessen the inclusion of theoretical references and material in the main body. It considers the work as a record of purely internal experience, and suggests that the wide emotional appeal of Beckett's work is mostly due to its elaboration of an early experience that is characteristic of all internal development. This chapter also emphasizes certain imagery, symbols, and manifestations in the text.
This chapter examines the centrality of the initial experiences of the development of a secure inner world. It shows that these experiences allow the self to involve others in a productive and living fashion. It explains how Murphy's fantasy of mind demonstrates his feeling of not being a part of a secure and loving world. It then determines how his regressive, despairing retreat was triggered. Finally, the chapter discusses Murphy's last days and his most important attempt to connect to a maternal figure in the guise of Mr. Endon, a psychiatric patient.
This chapter takes a look at the early scenes that reflect failed psychic birth, such as the actual birth of Larry Nixon and Watt's arrival into the fiction. The chapter first presents a detailed reading of Arsene's speech to Watt; this speech suggests initial anxiety situations. It then discusses Watt's stay in the house. This section also considers the absence of emotional connection between the two characters, and Watt's reaction to the failed attempt at forming a primary attachment. The chapter concludes with a section on the different symbols that suggest early maternal failure, disruptions in nurturing, and Watt's need for control by alternative maternal figures.
This chapter is concerned with the relationships formed between the tramps, between Lucky and Pozzo, and between the two couples. It explores some themes of starvation and failure in the nursing bond and considers the dominant relationship between an absent, alluring, and withholding Godot-as-mother and an unwell infantile self. This chapter considers the anxieties that are created by the absence of maternal recognition and the important aspects of early object relations that are organized around an experience of absent love.
This chapter discusses first-person short fiction. It studies the primal splits within the narrative-self in the direct fiction, as well as those in the ‘created’ tales of the narrator. It starts with a section on the split of the primary nursing bond in the Nouvelles and in the Texts for Nothing. It is followed by a discussion of the central feeling-states found within the Nouvelles and how the narrator experiences aspects of the self as threatening or even hostile, as stated in Texts for Nothing. This chapter also aims to explain the hidden and unfulfilled sense of the narrative self. It also examines the use of projective identification and the splitting of the narrative-self in ‘The Lost Ones’.
This chapter emphasizes that the study presented in the book is all about love. It provides a transcript of a dream the author had after he finished book, where he notes the similarities between his and Beckett's relationships with their parents. This chapter also determines Beckett's primal message to the readers, and reviews the concept of associative experience.