Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Samuel Beckett, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, is best known for his avant-garde plays, but he is also considered one of the most important experimental novelists of the twentieth century. Molloy, the first novel of a trilogy that is followed by Malone meurt (1951; Malone Dies, 1956) and L’Innommable (1953; The Unnamable, 1958), is considered his single greatest work of fiction. Although Molloy has been interpreted from many perspectives, including Jungian, Freudian, Christian, and existential, Beckett has made it impossible for any one theory entirely to explain his novel. He has deliberately created an ambiguous text, which, although it includes mythic and philosophical aspects, constantly subverts the attempt to secure clarity and order. Beckett blends irony, despair, lyrical poetry, tragedy, and an anarchic comedy in a narrative that is both realistic and dreamlike. The work can appear to be both about everything that matters and about nothing at all.

Although there are many theories concerning the meaning of the novel, a useful starting point is to explore its structure, which appears to be one of division. The small episode involving the characters of A and C at the beginning of the novel is often seen as an outline for the novel as a whole, because it gives us an image of “twoness.” The novel itself is divided into two chapters of roughly equal length. Like A and C, who come from opposite directions, the two first-person narratives, one by Molloy and one by Moran, seem to represent opposite points of view.

Each section of this novel is a psychological character study of a different man. The first chapter, narrated by Molloy, dispenses with traditional storytelling, instead using an unparagraphed, rambling, stream-of-consciousness style. Molloy is a dilapidated vagabond, with little sense of personal worth or significance. Obsessed with excrement and bodily functions, often helpless, moody, and confused, he seems to have entered a second childhood. Miserable, despairing, surrounded by a clutter of unmanageable objects, Molloy finds time to be slow, empty, and punctuated by trivial flurries of fruitless energy. He is filled with anxiety and boredom. Although he still possesses an astute analytical mind, he is utterly convinced that his experience is incomprehensible, and he ends up using his sharp intellect to sort out matters...

(The entire section is 996 words.)