Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable Analysis

Samuel Beckett

Molloy, 1951

(Great Characters in Literature)


Molloy, a one-eyed and toothless writer. In his mother’s room near the slaughterhouse, Molloy wants to die, but first he must write. Although he does not write for money and seems incapable of spending it, he is paid by a man who visits him every Sunday. Despite having a faulty memory for names, Molloy writes an account of his quest to see his mother. He begins his quest on bicycle by pedaling with his good leg and propping the stiff one awkwardly on the front axle. As both legs stiffen, he becomes too crippled to pedal and uses his crutches as grappling hooks to pull himself into a ditch, from which he is rescued. An only son, Molloy believes that he may have had a son himself but is uncertain of his own family history.

Jacques Moran

Jacques Moran (zhahk moh-RAH[N]), the elder, an agent sent to find Molloy. Moran lives an ordered, complacent life among his possessions in the town of Turdy until he receives a message from his employer, Youdi, to locate Molloy. Moran’s journey is filled with mysterious encounters, and he is forever uncertain of his way. His body begins to decay, and one leg stiffens with ankylosis, a pain that first appears while he is giving his son an enema. Moran carries more than a pound of keys in the right-hand pocket of his trousers, causing him to list to the right, and his hat is fastened under his chin by elastic. Moran dresses conspicuously in knickerbockers and boots and has but two teeth, incisors. Although he keeps chickens, game birds, and bees, Moran dislikes men and animals. He is disgusted by God even though he is a Catholic.


(The entire section is 682 words.)

Malone Dies, 1951

(Great Characters in Literature)


Malone, a toothless, old, omniscient storyteller confined to an asylum cell, where he waits to die. Malone lives in a kind of coma and has no notion of the room he inhabits. He plans to fill his time by telling himself four stories—one each about a man, a woman, a thing (probably a stone), and an animal (probably a bird). His narration, however, is primarily about a character named Macmann, to whom he may be related and who gradually moves into the cell and takes over his identity. Malone believes himself an octogenarian but cannot prove his age; although he knows the date of his birth, he is uncertain of the current year. Although he claims to have spent much of his life walking, his legs and feet seem far away and are unresponsive to his brain’s commands. A tall man with knowledge of the stars, Malone dreams of his own death, having become increasingly paralyzed to the point that he no longer can move his big, shaggy head. Malone’s ears have tufts of hair, yellowed by wax and lack of care, so long that his lobes are hidden. Malone lies naked in bed, never washing because he does not get dirty. He has bad vision and poor hearing, and he once was cared for by a nameless woman who fed him soup every day. His only possessions are a yellow boot with many eyeholes, a brimless hat, a needle stuck in a piece of cork, and a broken tobacco pipe, all of which he controls by a stick hooked at the end. He eventually loses his stick as well as his exercise book and pencil, a green nub with a lead that he sharpens with his fingernails.


Macmann, a fictional character invented by Malone, born with the name Saposcat. He is created sitting on a bench in town but, like Malone, ends in an asylum, where he spies on...

(The entire section is 722 words.)

The Unnamable, 1953

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Unnamable

The Unnamable, an unnamed disembodied voice seeking evidence of his own existence. He wonders if he has lived, will live, or does live. The Unnamable theorizes that he was born of a wet dream in Bally, and he has no body, only syntax. Because he feels occasional pressure on his rump and the soles of his feet, however, he believes he might be seated, perhaps in a crouched posture, hands on knees. He cannot move and is unable to blink or close his eyes, though he weeps. He sees only what is in front of him. He doubts that he even casts a shadow but cannot turn his head to see. Believing himself to be round and hard, he variously describes himself as an egg and as a big talking ball. If he moves at all, he surmises that he moves in orbits or cycles that return him to his original place, thereby making verification of his movement impossible. His existence depends on words and presumably will cease when his narrative is done. His monologue is a compulsive babble in which he vaguely remembers having been other characters and decides that he will be someone called Mahood, then Worm. He has no sex, no possessions, and no biography. He is trapped in time and space and becomes what he creates, for his life is solely the words he utters. He is essentially a mind in search of itself and is preoccupied with his own self-knowledge, although he despairs of knowing anything except in words.


Mahood, a lump who...

(The entire section is 599 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Abbott, H. Porter. The Fiction of Samuel Beckett: Form and Effect, 1973.

Fletcher, John The Novels of Samuel Beckett

O’Hara, James Donald, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Molloy,” “Malone Dies,” “The Unnamable”: A Collection of Essays, 1970.

Pilling, John. Samuel Beckett, 1976.

Robinson, Michael. The Long Sonata of the Dead: A Study of Samuel Beckett, 1969.