illustrated portrait of Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett

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Who are the characters and what is the plot of Beckett's "First Love"? How do quietism, solipsism, and existentialism relate to the man's personality? How reliable is his narration?

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The protagonist of Samuel Beckett’s story is a homeless young man who moves in with a woman following a chance encounter. The man had been living in his family home, but after his father’s death, he had to move out. Sitting on a canal-side bench one day, he meets and converses with a woman named Lulu. The protagonist is the first-person narrator of the story, in which he and Lulu are the main characters. She befriends him, visiting him at the same bench, until he grows fond of her. The man analyzes his emotions but is reluctant to express them; still, he suspects that he is experiencing love, the famous emotion about which he has often read. After a while, he moves into Lulu’s apartment. She is a sex worker who brings her clients home. The anti-social man frequently hides behind a sofa in an almost empty room. He also has sexual relations with Lulu, who he says has seduced him. When Lulu becomes pregnant, she tells him that he is the baby’s father. He encourages her to have an abortion and then leaves her. Because he is a first-person narrator, the entire story expresses his point of view; this means that he is almost certainly unreliable.

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