(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Watt consists of four long chapters, followed by an appendix of addenda. It is virtually plotless as it traces Watt’s separation from a world of naturalistic reality, his arrival at the surreal world of Mr. Knott, his stay in Mr. Knott’s service for an indefinite period, his departure from Mr. Knott’s domain when his indirect replacement arrives, and his later residence in an insane asylum where he meets Sam, a fellow inmate, who narrates such events as occur in the novel.

This narration opens by introducing three minor characters, Mr. Hackett and Mr. and Mrs. Nixon, who are conversing in a public area somewhere in Ireland when they notice a tram disgorging what may be a carpet or roll of tarpaulin but turns out to be Watt, “wrapped up in dark paper and tied about the middle with a cord.” Watt moves on to a railway station from which he takes a train and then a foot journey to Mr. Knott’s house. On his way, he is abused by the train conductor and a porter, assailed by a zealous theologian, and hit by a stone thrown without provocation by a Lady McCann, who is “catholic and military.” One critic has characterized Watt’s journey to Mr. Knott’s house as reminiscent of Christ’s along the fourteen stations of the Cross.

In the kitchen of the Knott house, Watt is greeted by Arsene, the departing servant whom he is to replace in Mr. Knott’s service. Arsene delivers a digressive and pompous speech of more than twenty-five pages, warning Watt of the strange, deceptive Knott-world. In chapter 2, Watt is troubled by the potness or whatness of Mr. Knott’s pots as...

(The entire section is 657 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Cohn, Ruby. Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut, 1962.

Federman, Raymond. Journey to Chaos: Samuel Beckett’s Early Fiction, 1965.

Fletcher, John. The Novels of Samuel Beckett, 1964.

Kenner, Hugh. A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett, 1973.