Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Forest. Unnamed forest in which most of the story is set. Although its location is never identified, the fact that the novel’s two main characters have Irish names suggests that the forest is in Ireland, Beckett’s homeland. However, other clues in the play suggest that the forest could as easily be in France, Beckett’s adopted country. In any case, the forest is probably in northern Europe.

Like the enchanted forest of traditional fairy tales, Beckett’s forest is a powerful agent that acts upon both the body and soul of any person who enters it. In this regard, the forest is more symbolic than specific and may even be said to represent a state of mind or a metaphysical situation rather than an actual location. However, although the forest is nonspecific, its character is bleak and unwelcoming, occasioning a profound sense of homelessness and despair for those who enter it. In this regard, the forest can be said to echo the “dark forest” Dante enters at the beginning of The Divine Comedy (c. 1320). It is in this forest that the hobo Molloy gives up his apparently fruitless quest for his mother; instead, time grinds to a halt, and becomes filled with anxiety and a sense of pointlessness. Ultimately, Molloy irrationally assaults a charcoal burner who apparently lives in the forest, and then sinks helplessly to the bottom of a ditch, from which he is somehow rescued and returned to his room.

It is also in this forest that the dapper detective Moran gives up his quest for the fugitive Molloy. While in the forest, Moran quarrels with his son, loses his bicycle, and is forced to live on roots and berries. He finds the forest even more disorienting...

(The entire section is 699 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Abbott, H. Porter. The Fiction of Samuel Beckett, Form and Effect. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Examines Beckett as a cunning literary strategist who wrote with an acute awareness of the effect his fiction had on its audience. Includes a useful examination of the parallels in the two stories of Moran and Molloy.

Astro, Alan. Understanding Samuel Beckett. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990. Offers an accessible analysis of Molloy and suggests that incomprehensibility is one of the novel’s major themes. Includes a useful chronology and a brief bibliography up to 1988.

Ben-Zvi, Linda. Samuel Beckett. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Concludes that the fictive process is the central issue and is intimately connected to the novel’s quest motif. Includes a useful, simple summary of Molloy, a chronology, and a selected bibliography.

Fletcher, John. The Novels of Samuel Beckett. London: Chatto & Windus, 1964. Important guide to Beckett’s fiction, tracing the evolution of the hero in his novels, and concluding that the question of identity is at the center of Beckett’s fiction. Includes a helpful analysis of Molloy, which Fletcher suggests is Beckett’s greatest work of fiction.

Rabinovitz, Rubin. Innovation in Samuel Beckett’s Fiction. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Suggests that what seems baffling or purposeless in Beckett results from judiciously considered formal strategies. Posits that although the novels may seem chaotic and rambling, they are ingenious works of art that use repetition as a deliberate strategy to create structure and meaning.