Is Not I A Life Assuring Play? Samuel Beckett wrote Not I in 1972. It has often been described by the term 'Theatre of the Absurd'

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Is Not I A Life Assuring Play?

Samuel Beckett wrote Not I in 1972. It has often been described by the term ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. This term was invented by Martin Esslin and refers to plays written in the 1950’s and 60’s. It originates from an essay by the French philosopher ‘Albert Camus’ called ‘The Myth Of Sisyphus’, and describes the situation of man as ‘totally meaningless’. Beckett’s plays often contain this idea; they suggest that man is out of tune with the universe, and that we as humans cannot decipher what our meaning or purpose is in life. Waiting for Godot, Becketts first play presents the idea that our roles have no purposes, and that man is a troubled and doubtful creature. At the time when Waiting For Godot was written, the Hiroshima bomb had just exploded in Japan, bringing an end to the second world war and leaving desolation in it’s wake. This news of human life being wiped out on such a massive scale changed people’s consciousness, broke down social boundaries, wavered religious beliefs, and most of all, provoked absolute despair. This fading out of religion, and lack of conviction that there was any help or resolution out there, is present in Beckett’s Not I. Whilst in Waiting For Godot there are discernable characters, in Not I Beckett presents ‘Mouth’. Mouth laughs at God, yet also seems to fear Him. Her constant references to ‘punishment’, which imply religious guilt for her lack of belief. This sentiment echoed the fears of many people in the 1950’s and 60’s. Overall the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ rebels against conventional theatre, with ‘Absurdist’ plays like Beckett’s Not I provoking much controversy.

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Not I is an extremely bleak play. The character MOUTH struggles with her own identity. She recalls painfully the story of the ‘god forsaken hole’ reviled by MOUTH as her mother’s sex and the miserable world into which she has been thrust. She was born out of ‘no love’, which suggests a sense of infidelity, adultery or rape between her parents. Beckett portrays MOUTH as vulnerable and detached. He conveys MOUTH’S perseverance through human weakness, despair and loss. This idea could have come from Becket’s one memory of an old Irish woman ‘stumbling down the lanes, in the ditches beside the ...

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