Undecidability In Becket's The Endgame Essay

1439 words - 6 pages

This paper aims to study postmodern element of undecidability in Samuel Becket's Endgame. As Butler and Davis holds, "What is different about Becket is not that he provokes a critical response ... but the protean, open-ended, 'undecidable' and inexhaustible quality of the challenge he offers" (168). Endgame like Becket's other plays is in a way that, as Wittgenstein notes, is nothing more than "language play" between characters and although there are some minor actions there are not in such a way to affect the play, moreover it is their vague utterances that make the play undecidable for the reader to make out what is happening.
Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle in their An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory explain the term undecidability as:
Undecidability involves the impossibility of deciding between two or more competing interpretations ... classical logic is founded on the law of non-contradiction: something cannot be both A and not A at the same time. The postmodern gives particular emphasis to ways in which this law may be productively questioned or suspended. Undecidability splits the text, disorders it. Undecidability dislodges the principle of a single final meaning in a literary text (232).
One of the most significant and undecidable subject of the play, that perplex the reader just at the very beginning of the play, is its title. Vivian Mercier points out that, the title reminding both of the ?ending? and ?end game? in chess (117). Considering the latter assumption, it suggests that red-faced Hamm in his wheel chair is the Red King, who can only be moved one square at a time in any direction and Clov, also red-faced, is more mobile Red chess man with his unsteadily walking represents a knight?s move, moreover white-faced Nagg and Nell are two fixed White chess men and it is not clear how White chess man can set up an attack without moving is not clear unless White has Red in jeopardy, and Red scrutinizing all the possible moves open to him before sacrificing Clov (117). Hamm?s first utterances are ?Me ... to play? (The Endgame 2658) and he repeats it in his final words, ?Me to Play ... Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing? (The Endgame 2684). Obviously Clov cannot kill Hamm, because no chess man can capture a king or any chess man of its own color (117). On the other hand, Clov?s first words that exclaims, ?finished, it?s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished (The Endgame 2657) and characters, consecutively, say to each other that, ?There are no more?: Bicycle-wheels, pap, nature, sugar-plums, tides, navigators, rugs, pain-killer, and coffins (17) makes it hard to decide whether Becket is making analogy with endgame of chess game or, as Vivian Mercier notes, it is an illustration about the end of the world (117).
The other ambiguous point about the play is that, the reader from the beginning to...

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