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Emilie Morin (Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland)
This paper focuses on the links between alienation and scarcity in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Endgame, to highlight the centrality of ideological and cultural factors originating in an Irish colonial experience. If alienation can only develop in relation to a norm from which it then becomes a departure, there is a sense that, in Waiting for Godot and Endgame, this norm is informed by the manner in which the rural and the class system were idealised in pre- and post-independence representations of Irish culture and history. Reading Waiting for Godot and Endgame as “Irish plays” raises a number of problems, due to their stylised approach to notions of identity. Nevertheless, Beckett’s representation of a situation of scarcity can be read as an adaptation of the primitivism of the Irish Literary Revival. Although the characters in Waiting for Godot are a far cry from the “peasant quality” of the Abbey Theatre, the imaginative legacy of the Revival is apparent in Beckett’s emphasis on poverty and scarcity. In these two plays, Beckett’s adaptation of the primitivism of the Revival enables him to question traditional stereotypes of identity and to recast them in a particular way, while countering traditional approaches to Irish subject-matter which favoured classical realism as a mode of representation of identity and belonging.
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