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Limitation of Language in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days . 9843009 Naphia. Samuel Beckett (1906~1989). Happy Days (1961) Absurd: "out of harmony with reason or propriety, incongruous, unreasonable, illogical" (Martin Esslin,2001)

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samuel beckett 1906 1989
Samuel Beckett (1906~1989)

Happy Days (1961)

Absurd: "out of harmony with reason or propriety, incongruous, unreasonable, illogical" (Martin Esslin,2001)

=> rejects language as an instrument for expressing meanings in its deepest levels

fritz mauthner
Fritz Mauthner

Critique of Language

one of the first works:

"fallibility of languageas a medium for the discovery and communication of metaphysical truths"

  • poverty of language
  • 'reducing knowledge to speaking'
  • 'that the writer could merely allow characters to speak and their words would become signs, not of knowledge, but rather of the failure of knowledge'
happy days
Happy Days

Winnie - immobile, stuck in the mound

- non-stop talking

- optimistic

Willy - most of the time invisible

- Winnie's attempted interlocutor

  • immobility
  • reliance on speech
Winnie:...What is that unforgettable line? [Pause. Eyes right.] Willie. [Pause. Louder.] Willie. [Pause. Eye front.] May one still speak of time? [Pause.]..

(Beckett, 1986:160)

the old style
'the old style'
  • no certainty
  • failure in recalling and accessing to a time or space
  • confusion of time
i speak therefore you are
I Speak, therefore You Are

Winnie: 'I say I used to think that I would learn to talk alone. [Pause.] By that I mean to myself, the wilderness. [Smile.] But no. [Smile broader.] No no. [Smile off.] Ergo you are there. [Pause.]'(Beckett, 1986:160)

  • vulnerability of man of reliance on language
  • language fails
language as a capital or object
Language as a capital or object

Winnie: 'Something says, Stop talking now, Winnie, for a minute, don't squander all your words for the day...' (Beckett, 1986:155)

  • Talking
  • Trivial actions with limited objects from her bag

Instrument of communication?

language is 'all one can do'

(Beckett, 1986:145)

Treated as a Tool for survival to pass her days



  • fragments of uncertain source
  • short memories
  • disintegration
  • essential to the existence
  • nature of language:

complementary "ego" and "you" (interlocutor)

  • must be ensured by the accessibility of the others
  • individual v.s society
  • Winnie's one-sidedness:
    • she 'can well imagine what is passing through your [his] mind...Well it is very understandable.'
  • avoidance of failure
  • 'fictional interlocutor'
  • no relevance to reality
  • Belief? World View?
  • lack of relevance to reality
  • no productivity
  • empty refrains
limitation of language
Limitation of Language
  • senseless, meaningless, absurd world
  • unlived life with no actual transmission and reception of inner message
  • Ben-Zvi, "Samuel Beckett, Fritz Mauthner and the Limits of Language"
  • Johnson, Julian. "The Breaking of the Voice" Nineteeth-Century Music Review. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Pelican, 2001. Print. 86.
  • Beckett, Samuel. "The Complete Dramatic Works" (1986) England: Clays, 1990. Print.
  • Carrière, Julien F. "Samuel Beckett and Bilingualism: How the Return to English Influences the Later Writing Style and Gender Role of All That Fall and Happy
  • Days" (2005), 154
  • Pavel, Thomas G. "Understanding Narrative". 7. Naturallizing Molloy The Ohio State University Press. Web. 1994.
  • Brown, Llewellyn. "Cliche and Voice in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days"