Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Arthur Simon

Committee Member

Gregory Waters


In this thesis, I look at Beckett’s Murphy and Waiting for Godot through a Marxist lens and argue that these texts can be read as a critique of modern alienation under capitalism. Through his narrator and characters, Beckett critiques and satirizes alienation and searches for alternatives to it in comedy and creative playfulness. Also, I argue that in these works writing itself emerges as non-alienated labor through which the creator, the central characters, and the readers/spectators can resist modem alienation. The first chapter examines Murphy in the light of Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor, the writings of Erich Fromm and others who have expanded on Marx’s theory, and some relevant theories about humor and play, including the ideas of George Santayana. The second chapter uses Bakhtin’s theory of the carnivalesque and Gadamer’s theory of spectator participation in the play of drama to complicate the seemingly universal “existential” concerns of the text and highlight the liberatory potential embedded within the text and in the space between it and its spectators/ readers. The conclusion explores how Beckett’s concern with alienation under modem capitalism ties in with his conflicted relationship with the craft of writing.

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