‘Samuel Beckett and the Meaning of Being: A Study in Ontological Parable’ by Lance St. John Butler

Published by St. Martin’s Press in 1984.


The easiest thing of all is to pass judgement on what has a solid substantial content; it is more difficult to grasp it and most of all difficult to do both together and produce the systematic exposition of it.

—Georg W. F. Hegel

Since at least 1960 there has been a great deal of critical attention paid to Beckett. Besides the many articles, reviews, chapters and paragraphs, by 1980 more than sixty books had been published devoted exclusively to him. A lot of this critical work has been of the highest standard and certainly it is hard to imagine how a serious appreciation of Beckett would be able to develop without some of it.

At the heart of his writing there is an inescapable mass of involvement with the fundamental issues of existence that has yet to be dealt with adequately. This study intends to attack this central core of Beckett’s work by associating it with the discipline which, by definition, operates in the same area — philosophy. This will demonstrate one way of reading Beckett and may at the same time show how far philosophical analogy can illuminate a writer . . .

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