Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

A succinct statement of all of Beckett’s philosophy can be found in Company: He describes God as “Devised deviser devising it all for company.” The traditional themes of isolation and doubt found in all of Beckett’s work are joined here by a more poignant human emotional expression: loneliness. By reexamining the axioms of the Catechism, in which fundamental questions of God’s motives in creating mankind are asked and answered, Beckett postulates that an immovable Prime Mover may have created the universe for “company,” to alleviate a cosmic aloneness. Yet his thesis is by no means strictly metaphysical; the author himself may create characters for the same reason, as his sense of isolation overcomes him. Thus, the childhood memories that become stories from a voice to a listener are conjured up, partly remembered, partly reconstructed, partly made from whole cloth, to keep the author “company” in moments of unbearable loneliness. Beckett is submitting himself here to two kinds of personal exposure: the suggestion of autobiographical information regarding his relationship with his parents, and an undisguised admission of his own personal reasons for writing.

Any summary of Beckett’s themes and meanings must necessarily reduce to banality what are, in fact, immensely complex metaphysical, aesthetic, and formalistic constructions. Taken together, his canon forms a sophisticated philosophical treatise on the implications and consequences of existential thought, at the same time vast in its comprehension and intensely personal in its expression. Like the great leap of the little boy into his father’s arms, Beckett’s Company is an act of bravery.