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COMPARATIVE drama 1 Volume 16 Winter 1982-83 Number 4 Perceiving Rockaby-As a Text, As a Text by Samuel Beckett, As a Text for Performance Charles R. Lyons Most of Beckett’s images of human character confront funda­ mental epistomological questions, often with a high degree of self-consciousness. Typically the character poses opinions or perceptions about his environment, history, and the co-ordinates of his experience and then questions those judgments or percep­ tions. Statements of assertion, qualification, and denial mark the texts. Beckett, as author, also undermines his authority as he establishes images of character and then diminishes those images, questioning their stability. In the trilogy he reveals the presence of Molloy, Moran, and Malone as writer-protagonists who create the pages of the text in a daily activity of writing.1 As readers we are uncertain about the authenticity of their writing as history or memory, but intially we accept the fictional given of their roles as narrators. However, in the third novel, the strange creature in a jar—sometimes Mahood—suggests that these writers are not real within the fictional world of the CHARLES R. LYONS, chairman of the Department of Drama at Stanford University, is author of a book on Samuel Beckett soon to be published by Grove Press. 297 298 Comparative Drama trilogy but are, rather, personae possessing his imagination. We do not need to believe him, but the doubt his comment stimulates qualifies the imagined presence of the other narrators. Like his characters, Beckett makes an assertion and then questions its validity. Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction provides clear examples of what is now popularly called textuality. The novels of the trilogy identify themselves as texts explicity by assuming the form of their protagonists’ writing. In that strategy they avoid the need to represent any reality other than the words organized by their particular narrator’s consciousness. The subtle play of similarity in these writers’ names—Molloy, Moran, Malone, Mahood— stimulates the reader to speculate that these fictional speakers are displacements of a single persona, functioning as a rhetorical device that masks the 1 of the writer with the flexible 7 of the narrating character.2 The voice in The Unnamable says: All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones do not fool me. They have made me waste my time, suffer for nothing, speak of them when, in order to stop speaking, I should have spoken of me and of me alone. But I just said I have spoken of me, am speaking of me. I don’t care a curse what I have just said. It is now I shall speak of me, for the first time. I thought I was right in enlisting these sufferers of my pains. I was wrong. And Basil and his gang? Inexistent, invented to explain I forget what. Ah yes, all lies, God and man, nature and the light of day, the heart’s outpourings and the means of understanding, all in­ vented, basely, by me alone, with the help of no one, since there is no one, to put off the hour when I must speak of me. There will be no more of them.3 But he does continue to use the identity of Mahood: Decidedly Basil is becoming important, I’ll call him Mahood instead, I prefer that, I’m queer. It was he told me stories about me, lived in my stead, issued forth from me, came back to me, entered back into me, heaped stories on my head. I don’t know how it was done.4 This clear complex of characters as multiple personae used by a fictional speaker demonstrates both the textuality and the intertextuality of Beckett’s writing. The references in one work to the characters and events of others work to build an image in our minds of Beckett’s writing as one extended text. The various storytellers become variants of the storyteller, and the subject of their writing becomes writing itself. Storytelling pro­ Charles R. Lyons 299 vides the speaker with the means to characterize himself either as the I of the narrator or as the subject of the story. Speech creates and sustains the persona...


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