Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lois Oppenheim

Committee Member

Elizabeth Emery

Committee Member

Kathleen Loysen


The literary works of Samuel Beckett have always had great interest for critics, researchers and biographers. Considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, Beckett is much discussed, but some — philosophers such as Jean- Paul Sartre, for instance — have praised him for his treatment of the absurd, while others have done so for his introduction of new novelistic and dramatic forms as well as for the beauty of his language. Many critics have called him the writer of despair and his plays were among the earliest contributions to the “Theatre of the Absurd." Recognizing the power of the unconscious, Beckett was extraordinarily innovative, raising to new heights the ecstasy and despair of creation.

This study addresses the theme of suffering in the work of Samuel Beckett. It attempts to show the important role played in his work by his past, his personal experiences and his psychological conflicts. Our research shows that the sufferings experienced by his characters are not fictitious, but inspired by real events of the author’s life and time. Establishing that it is the human condition, the destitution of human beings even, that interests the author, we seek to demonstrate the extent to which his unconscious mind affected his creative writing. Our methodology of literary analysis is essentially psycho-biographical, analyzing the literary works of Beckett on the basis of the language used by his characters as they relate to the author’s life experience. We also aim to reveal that Beckett’s literary success lies in his concern for the art of communication, his preoccupation with the shape of language, and we do so by focusing primarily on one of his most important novels, The Unnamable, and one of his most successful plays, Happy Days.

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