Dante and the Lobster

by Samuel Beckett

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Is Beckett's "Dante and the Lobster" both comic and philosophical?

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This story, the first in the early collection More Pricks than Kicks (1934) rejected by over 20 publishers because of its title, is a day in the life of a character named Belaqua (named after Dante’s procrastinator in The Divine Comedy) is comic in two senses: it avoids tragedy (Aristotle’s distinction), as does Dante’s Divine Comedy; and the clever, humorous wordplay, imagery, irreverent quotations, comic detail, etc. in the story: “lepping,” “smiting the sledded Polacks on the ice” (from Shakespeare), the making of toast, and so forth.  It is philosophical without being pedantic, phrasing Beckett’s view of life in several layers of plot and character: the learning of Italian by reading The Divine Comedy, the random cast of townspeople in his normal day, the pointlessness and randomness of human choices that seem to take on a great importance to the individual, the turning of the cheese to hide the bad side, and finally, the fate of the lobster(that Belaqua thought was happily dead already, climaxing with final Beckettian philosophical metaphor “It’s a quick death, God help us all.  It is not.”

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