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Samuel  Beckett

The Mystery of God in the Works of Samuel Beckett


A Social History of Alcohol in 19th and 20th Century America

 

Nicole  Wilson

The mystery of God's existence in Samuel Beckett's literary works reflects Beckett's own criticism of the belief in a higher being and organized religion. In each of his works, Beckett creates a character comparable to God, and a character who worships and depends upon the God-like character. Beckett reveals his disapproval of this type of relationship by depicting the characters as unfulfilled and miserable; they seem to be trapped in their dead-end life of worshipping this seeming deity. In his literary relationships, Beckett states his disagreement with organized religion and the existence of God. In twentieth century Europe many artists and authors, especially expatriates, were victims of alcoholism. Although it is not certain if Samuel Beckett was one, he associated with and was influenced strongly by many authors that experimented with alcohol. In the United States in the twentieth century, prohibitionists were concerned with ending the damaging effects of alcohol abuse on society.

Alcohol played an integral part of American society beginning when the first settlers stepped off the ship from Europe. These first Americans brought with them European drinking traditions. As time progressed, some Americans began to realize the harmful effects of alcohol on society. The nineteenth century brought the Temperance Movement, a fight against alcohol that was led by women. The Women's Christian Temperance Union, headed by Frances Willard, was one of the most successful temperance groups and focused on the reform of individual alcoholics, especially those whose families felt the effect of an alcohol addiction. The temperance movement carried on into the twentieth century, when Prohibitionists believed that the way to end alcohol's damaging effects on society was to ban alcohol altogether. This belief turned into the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the legal sale of alcohol in America, beginning in 1920. Despite this law, many Americans continued to produce, sell, buy and drink alcohol. In 1933, due to the realization that a national ban on alcohol was an ineffective method for reform, Prohibition came to an end. After 1933, alcohol abuse continued to be an issue, and as an alternative to a national ban, Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in order to help alcholics recover.

Major Works Consulted:

Beckett, Samuel. Molloy. New York: Grove, 1955.
---. Watt. New York: Grove, 1953.
Bordin, Ruth. Frances Willard: A Biography. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina,1986.
Lender, Mark E. and James K. Martin. Drinking in America. New York: Collier Macmillan, 1987.
Photo Credit: Bown, Jane. "Beckett on Film." Google. 28 April 2004 Keyword: Samuel Beckett.

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