Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much of the conceptual dimension of “Dante and the Lobster” is borne out by the story’s stylistic variety. Beckett’s later stylistic virtuosity may be seen in embryo here. The story’s preoccupation with disruption, discontinuity, interruption, and reversal is given its primary salience in the author’s language. Veering from the mandarin to the demonic, from the platitudinous to the rarefied, from the language of Dublin to the language of Dante, Beckett provides a telling form of dramatic validation for Belacqua’s experiences of finality and indeterminacy. The oscillations of style occur unpredictably, devoid of a sense of pattern or overall objective. Their reality, like that of everything else in the story, is ratified by Belacqua’s failure to rise above them.

Supplementing the story’s plethora of styles is an equally wide and unpredictable range of literary allusions. In addition to Dante, a greater influence on Beckett—James Joyce—subtly pervades the story. A reader gains an interesting perspective on Belacqua through noting his fear (mentioned on two different occasions) of “some brisk tattler . . . bouncing in now with a big idea or petition”; fear, that is, of a confrontation dramatized in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Similarly, it is amusing to compare the fitful Belacqua’s lunchtime with that of steady Leopold Bloom in Ulysses (1922): Bloom lunches on Gorgonzola and...

(The entire section is 457 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Samuel Beckett wrote this story in the early 1930s, at the very start of his writing career. Those years were a tumultuous time in...

(The entire section is 858 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

As would be expected from a story that alludes to Dante in its title and has a protagonist named after a Dantean...

(The entire section is 614 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s: Like the United States, Europe in the 1930s suffers through the Great Depression. Millions of people are out of work, and as a...

(The entire section is 349 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Research the life and times of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. When did he live? Where? What was the political and the social life like in...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Waiting for Godot, first produced in 1953, is Beckett’s masterwork. The play depicts two tramps who wait, through the course of the...

(The entire section is 207 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Bryden, Mary, ‘‘No Stars without Stripes: Beckett and Dante,’’ in Romanic Review, Vol. LXXXVII, No. 4,...

(The entire section is 312 words.)