Article Title

Defeated Sexuality in the Plays and Novels of Samuel Beckett


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

"I summoned up my remaining strength and said, Abort, abort..."1 This cry of the reluctant father in the short novel First Love suggests an element which is prevalent throughout Samuel Beckett's work: concern with the physical details of reproduction, its success or lack of success, and specifically the impotence, sterility, and decay of the sexual organs, repulsive copulation and the destruction of progeny. The earlier novels abound with scenes of grotesque and defeated sexual activity (e.g., Watt's laborious and futile fondling of Mrs. Gorman2) but in the plays such lengthy scenes are usually replaced by a single word, phrase, or allusion, often oblique and obscure but as important in its context as are the more elaborate fictional passages in theirs. It is there varied and elusive sexual references in the plays which I will discuss, showing them to be not random and incidental details, but rather, as in the fiction, significant metaphors for the misery of human life itself.

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