Redefinition Of Purgation In Samuel Beckett's Dream Of Fair To Middling Women, Mercier And Camier, How It Is
Danacı, Fahriye Selvi
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Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321) Divine Comedy (1320) has a substantial influence on Samuel Beckett’s (1906-1989) writing throughout his literary career. Beckett was particularly interested in Comedy’s second part, Purgatory, and Dante’s religious approach to the concepts of purgation and salvation in this part. In Dante’s Purgatory, the souls, whose sins are redeemable, go through a series of punishments, atoning for their sins on earth to become worthy to be accepted to Paradise. Due to his pessimistic approach to the individual’s existence, Beckett found Dante’s religious perspective towards the concept of purgation highly incompatible with the condition of the individual in the twentieth century. For Beckett, the individual’s suffering is interminable, and cannot bring salvation as a result. Therefore, Beckett interprets Dante’s purgatorial journey through Purgatory as an aporia for his characters in a playful and subverting manner. While the concept of the purgatorial journey has a restorative implication for Dante’s souls in Purgatory, it turns out to be a perpetual cycle, an impasse for Beckett’s characters. The world the Beckettian man inhabits becomes a twisted Purgatory for him, from which he cannot escape. Faced with such predicament, the Beckettian man searches for an existence different from the one he has in the outer world surrounding him. At that point, he attempts to elude the outer reality and pursues a lethargic existence in his mind. For this pursuit, Beckett uses one of Dante’s characters in Comedy as a model: Belacqua in Ante-purgatory, the sub-territory of Purgatory. Dante portrays Belacqua as an indolent soul, who enjoys his condition in Ante-purgatory and adopts an indifferent attitude towards the whole process of purgation. Beckett’s derelicts perceive the condition of Dante’s Belacqua as a sublime form of existence, which Beckett calls ‘the Belacquan bliss.’ In order to achieve such existence, Beckett’s vagabonds embark on a journey striving to escape from the outer world around them. In this respect, Beckett subverts Dante’s concept of Purgatory, since the direction of the Beckettian man’s journey is reversed. It is not towards a Dantean Paradise, but a lethargic existence which Dante’s Belacqua enjoys in Ante-purgatory. However, in Beckett’s universe, this kind of a liberation is also precluded since the individual’s suffering is perennial. Thus, the Beckettian man is condemned to an endless purgatorial journey. This thesis aims to study how Beckett challenges Dante’s concept of purgation in Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1932), Mercier and Camier (1946), and How It Is (1961). The first chapter, focusing on Dream of Fair to Middling Women, examines how Beckett portrays the modern man oscillating between the outer reality and the seclusion of his own mind, unable to choose either in an in-between condition. The second chapter, analysing Mercier and Camier, argues that the situation of Beckettian men gets more intricate, since they become isolated from the outer reality, and their quest is precluded in every aspect. With the third chapter on How It Is, it is suggested that Beckett takes the individual’s existence to the ultimate disintegration. The Beckettian man is portrayed without a purpose, or a hope to move on, but obliged to move on nevertheless. Thus, Beckett continues his subversion of the concept of purgation and the idea of the purgative journey in an increasing pessimistic tone in each novel.