SelfAlienation in Samuel Becketts The Unnamable

Samuel Becket’s trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable are each characterized by themes of alienation and exile from mainstream society (Fletcher 1970). Twentieth-century fiction was marked by literary themes that reflected self-reverence aimed at the exploration of the self and the world. For example, Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man depicts a protagonist that is detached from society and at the same time seeks to express himself via his art. Similarly, existentialism was a major theme in the works of Albert Camus as exemplified by The Stranger whose detached protagonist continues to question absurdity and existence (Camus 1989). Beckett however, focuses more sharply on self-exploration and explanation. This theme is enunciated in his trilogy via narrators who project the concept that the only reality that exists is the human desire to convey stories. To this end, the narrator in The Unnamable conveys the reality that the other narrators in Molloy and Malone Dies were only creations of the unnamable narrator’s storytelling (O’Neil 2004, 96). The theme of self-alienation ultimately means separation and disengagement and can be physical and/or mental. As Fried (2005) explains, the underlying goal of the protagonists in constructing their self-alienation is to reduce their vulnerability to the world’s contingencies, social or otherwise (15). Beckett’s narratives in his 1950s trilogy introduce a paradox between freedom and the constraints on freedom. The constraints on man’s freedom are so intense that the narrators remain alienated from the self (Elovaara 1976, 3). In other words, narrators reflect disenchantment with what is perceived as suffocating social and political changes by deliberately removing themselves from those changes either literally or figuratively.