Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Forest

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...

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