There’s no question Samuel Beckett was deeply influenced by the avant-garde style of fellow Irish novelist James Joyce when writing Molloy. Both Beckett and Joyce allude to the classics (Dante’s Purgatorio and Homer’s Odyssey, respectively) and both extensively employ interior monologue to often similar effect. Even so, Beckett, ever aware of the shadow cast by his former mentor, also attempted to eschew Joycean tendencies in his works, as demonstrated in Molloy. Here, not only does Beckett entirely deny readers the luxury of context, he deconstructs the very fundamentals of novel and narrative. Distinctly metafictional in form, Molloy self-consciously underlines its own artificiality and, ...view middle of the document...
I am calm. All is sleeping. Nevertheless I get up and go to my desk. I can’t sleep. My lamp sheds a soft and steady light. I have trimmed it. It will last till morning. I hear the eagle-owl. What a terrible battle-cry! Once I listened to it unmoved. My son is sleeping. Let him sleep. The night will come when he too, unable to sleep, will get up and go to his desk. I shall be forgotten (20).
Perhaps most striking is the sheer resolution in Moran’s voice and diction. The adamance of the first sentence alone prefaces the absolute certainty that follows. It’s not night, and it’s not evening — an especially transient time, being neither day nor night. It is decisively midnight. It’s also apparent from this excerpt that Moran demonstrates a clear sense of space, at least in the physical sense, with references to his window, lamp, and desk. The character’s grounded relation to his surroundings is further substantiated with the repetition of “my,” indicating possession and ownership.
In stark comparison, the ending of the second section, which also serves as the novel’s conclusion, indicates anything but certainty.
I have spoken of a voice telling me things. I was getting to know it better now, to understand what it wanted. It did not use the words that Moran had been taught when he was little and that he in his turn had taught to his little one. So that at first I did not know what it wanted. But in the end I understood this language. I understood it, I understood it, all wrong perhaps. This is not what matters. It told me to write the report. Does this mean I am freer now than I was? I do not know. I shall learn. Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining (40).
Whereas Moran’s opening words conveyed the notion of control, the omission of “my” in lieu of “it” signify his total loss of ownership, or at least an inability to perceive himself within the context of others. Again, such a dramatic transformation may lead some to the conclusion that Moran and Molloy are one and the same, and it’s easy to see why. Sure, the voice and word choice here more closely resemble that of Molloy in the first section, yet such an observation is cursory at best.
Consider, for instance, the last two sentences of the section. When juxtaposed with the two that open it, they appear to be in flat contradiction with each other. This illogic, however, should not be attributed simply to the decay of Moran’s mental stability. Much like real-life novelists — who may draw inspiration from their own life experiences but rarely use non-fiction as the sole substance of fiction — Moran uses his authorship to control the extent of fictitious elements in his narrative. Regardless of whether it is midnight or not midnight, the fact that Moran simultaneously presents both dichotomies as equally valid exposes the constructed nature of his account.
That said, Moran’s unreliable narration also...