Beckett's Absurd Characters
Beckett did not view and express the problem of Absurdity in any form of philosophical theory (he never wrote any philosophical essays, as Camus or Sartre did), his expression is exclusively the artistic language of theatre. In this chapter, I analyse the life situation of Beckett's characters finding and pointing at the parallels between the philosophical background of the Absurdity and Beckett's artistic view.
As I have already mentioned in the biography chapter, Beckett read various philosophical treatises; he was mostly interested in Descartes, Schopenhauer, and Geulincx. These thinkers are the main sources which influenced and formed Beckett's view of the world as well as his literary writings.
Beckett's major and the only theme appearing and recurring in all his works, is exclusively the theme of man. Beckett is interested in man as an individual, in his subjective attitude to the world, in confrontation of individual subject with the objective reality.
According to Descartes, human being is composed of two different substances: body (res extensa) and mind (res cogitas).21 The body is a part of a mechanical nature, a material substance independent from spirit; and the mind, a pure thinking substance. This distinction of the two qualitative different substances is called subject-object "Cartesian dualism", 22 and it gave rise to number of philosophical problems, the essence of which is Their mutual connection.
Beckett's characters are such subjective thinking substances surrounded by mechanical material nature; and as the subject-object connection was the most problematic part of Descartes' concept, it is one of the major motifs Beckett deals with. He uses dramatic symbols, to express the barriers and the walls between the worlds "in" and "out" as to demonstrate their incompatibility. His characters are physically isolated from what is happening "outside" and the space they are imprisoned in, is their inner subjective world. "A Beckett hero is always in conflict with objects around him... he is divided from the rest of the world, a stranger to its desires and needs. The dichotomy between his own mind and body finds an analogy in the outside world in the dichotomy between people and objects. ...tension is created between mind and body, on one hand, and people and objects, on the other. ..."23
Hamm and Clov are closed in a small room separated from the external reality by the walls.
Hamm: Nature has forgotten us.
Clov: There's no more nature.
Nell and Nagg, the human fragments vegetate in two ashbins, their space is reduced ad absurdum, as though they are constantly getting closer to death. In addition, all of the characters are immobile; Hamm cannot stand up and walk, and although Clove can, he can even see the world out of the windows giving onto the sea, he is...