Samuel Beckett's Hidden Drives: Structural Uses of Depth Psychology (Crosscurrents)
J. D. O'Hara
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"Culminates with the closest, most detailed and systematic reading of Beckett’s most important novel, Molloy, yet produced. . . . No other work in Beckett studies has attempted to deal with these works in this much detail, with this strong a thesis, and, most important, with this much success. . . . A masterwork. It will completely revise how we think of Beckett’s creative process and how we read Molloy."--S. E. Gontarski, Florida State University
While much has been written on the subject of Joyce’s uses of sources and models, little has been written about Samuel Beckett’s similar preference for using formal systems of thought as scaffolding for his own work. In the most comprehensive study of his use of source material, J. D. O’Hara examines specifically Beckett’s almost obsessive concern with psychological sources and themes and his use of Freudian and Jungian narrative structures.
Beginning with Beckett’s early monograph, Proust, O’Hara traces Beckett’s preference for Schopenhauer’s philosophy as the system of thought most appropriate for thinking and writing about Proust. O’Hara then examines Beckett’s shift from philosophical to psychological models, specifically to Freudian and Jungian texts. Beckett used these, as O’Hara demonstrates, for characterization and plot in his early writings.
Beckett’s use of depth psychology, however, in no way allows the reader to hang either a "Freudian" or "Jungian" tag on Beckett. O’Hara cautions his readers against inferring "truth value" from what is more properly understood as scaffolding--a temporary arrangement used during the construction of his own absolutely unique art form. O’Hara analyzes this scaffolding in the novel Murphy, the story collection More Pricks Than Kicks, the short works "First Love" and "From an Abandoned Work," and the radio play All That Fall. He concludes with the most comprehensive and detailed reading of Molloy available anywhere. No serious reader of Beckett will want to be without this book.
connection, associating the state of “godlikeness” with knowledge of good and evil, as in the Book of Genesis. Earlier he said that “the analysis and conscious realization of unconscious contents’’ may give rise to a feeling of superiority. We have just set that idea aside. But “this same juxtaposition of good and evil can have a very different effect on a different kind of temperament.” The juxtaposition may bring no sense of power. Quite the contrary: “It may … seem as though he were a
hegemony. The intellectual, cultural, and literary significance of such profound restructuring, how history will finally rewrite itself, is difficult to anticipate. Having had a fertile period of modernism snuffed out in an ideological coup not long after the 1917 revolution, the nations of the former Soviet Union have, for instance, been denied
Murphy appears to be well organized. It moves steadily forward along plot lines that are stated and then intertwined. Murphy's isolation is explained as the result of an unsatisfactory attempt upon Miss Counihan's virtue and an equally unsatisfactory attempt at a philosophical explanation of his problem under Neary's guidance. Then
based upon “a sense of invalidity, of inadequacy,” Beckett says, and he connects it with the irrational. As if referring to Murphy's Neary and to Watt, he suggests that conventional rational understandings of and makings of art shy away from the irrational “with a kind of Pythagorean terror, as though the irrationality of pi were an
with it by a “wrong part.” “The change of personal centre and the surrender of the lower self” are significant events in this plot, as are “the exteriority of the helping power and … our sense of union with it” (499). In short, he dramatizes the subject. James also suggests by his choice of materials a valuable kind of text, the “autobiographic document.” Such a work omits the normalizing and judging narrative voice