A comparative analysis of; ‘Endgame’ by Samuel Beckett and ‘Why Dorothy Wordsworth is Not as Famous as her Brother’ by Lynn Peters

In this stylistic analysis of Samuel Beckett’s 1957 play ‘Endgame’ and Lynn Peter’s poem ‘Why Dorothy Wordsworth is Not as famous as her Brother’ I will be analysing phonology and transcription in performed literature, the literary pragmatics as well as the speech and thought presentation associated within these texts. Considered as one of the last modernists [1] his bleak attitude on human complexions and the grim, ironic humour which consist in his plays give Beckett a specifically identifiable style. Thus an investigation in phonology and transcription is particularly  interesting not just relevant in the Drama performance as well as script. Although Lynn Peter’s poem is not performed, there are some phonetic realism in her pattern of speech as well as thought presentation that are consistent to Beckett’s bleak ‘realistic’ representations of life.

Being a drama, ‘Endgame’ is purposely created to be performed to an audience and being visual, settings are particularly important and a very Beckettian aspect associated with the settings is minimalism (where props are kept to a minimum) therefore every prop has a particularly important purpose, whether it is a chair or “ashbins” in which we are permitted knowledge of their importance later on in the first scene and part of this minimalism of props is that is as gloomy as the actors position and speech as we see in the BBC performance Endgame 1989[2]. A part of Beckett’s stabs at realism, is keeping the audience in the unknown of what is inside the objects Clov is laughing at are, it is personal and there is no need to force-introduce everyone from the opening to everything, it is kept in pace. Unlike the performance where Clov laughs at everything he looks into, in the text he is directed to laugh only at what is inside the barrels which seems much more engaging as it is a specific focus. Nevertheless, the directions will mostly be appropriate to a stylistic analysis; they almost mirror the spoken text. Clove’s manic  repetitive actions “He looks up at window left. He turns and looks at window right. He turns and looks at window left” mirror those of his speech “ten feet by ten feet by ten feet” this unnecessary repetition, a typical non-fluency feature which is consistent with spontaneous speech and so seemingly spontaneous acting-  is crucial in performance as the aim is to make the audience forget that it is a stage and act, but that it is real.

The phonological patterns of speech fulfils its intent on spontaneity, such as Clov’s constant repetition “Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” which becomes to sound like a restless manic stream of consciousness (which compliments who he is fantastically; a servant of Hamm who is unable to sit), unaware of an audience. Clov’s speech however also determines his status that is immediately made so obvious without a “formal” introduction. His use of the verb of motion “I’ll go now into my kitchen…and wait for him to whistle me” (predominantly the verb phrase “wait for him to whistle me” typically associated with whistling to dogs) introduces him as an obedient, servant like figure and thus through hierarchy and non-fluency features which suggest nervousness and lack of confidence (which is also evident through his “staggered” walking), the audience is already informed that it will not be him who holds the floor but “him” whom he awaits a whistle from who holds complete power.

Starting in medias res, Hamm awakens and immediately starts with a declarative false start “Me- [he yawns]-to play.” And then immediately exclamatory  “Old stancher!” He Immediately flouts the Grices Maxims[3] of relevance and manner, in which he starts of randomly (irrelevantly) and rudely (manner) as not only is it insulting, but also an idiom which may keep some of the audiences out of know (while also building himself a regional character). He is instantly demanding and self-pitying as he begins to lazily question who is more pitiful; himself or his parents…or even his dog. “Can there be a misery-[he yawns]- loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now? [pause] My father? [pause] My mother? [pause] My…dog? ”  These parallel rhetorical questions combined with paralinguistic features “[yawns]” are typical of Beckett, although bleak and shocking to the listener- it demonstrates the real selfishness of human beings. The character of Hamm continues to flout Grices Maxim of relevance; he is very ambiguous in the context of his words such as “Enough, it’s time it ended, in the refuge too. [Pauses]And yet I hesitate, I hesitate to…to end” however this works for realism and is a convincing part of the stream of conscious, after all, when thinking to oneself, it is almost always cryptic, you do not need to explain yourself to yourself.  On the other hand, as this play was originally in French[4], it could possibly be that the translation did not work so well for the English language- which could all in all be a major factor of the spontaneous sentences. Hamm certainly shows his absolute power in this closing text as he whistles and Clov enters immediately “He halts beside the chair” and is greeted with an insult “You pollute the air!”. Hamm instantly asserts his power to inform the audience more officially of his competence and quite clearly his disregard of his servant.

Lynn Peters’ poem, ‘Why Dorothy Wordsworth[5] is Not as Famous as her Brother” is similar in that although it is a poem, it seems like an omniscient recording that dips in her thoughts and out in the real world. Like the play, it has aspects of realism from the intermitted speech of the characters; there is an attempt of this to flow in the poem although not successful as it is constantly interrupted by the obligations of the real world, alike ‘Endgame’ where the characters stream of thought is also broken even without the interruption from other people (but maybe self torment). The poems title is a fantastic summary of the poems informative intention, the mandatory declarative sentence structure of it indicates to the audience that this is the reason for her lack of fame as opposed to her brother . Lynn’s foregrounding of Dorothy Wordsworth by using her name and not mentioning William Wordsworth[6]  shows that the audience will instantly know who her” brother” is without mentioning him formally. Using intertextual referencing to William Wordsworth’s famous poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ instantly suggesting it was in fact his sisters words, in which she never got to finish due to her constant nursing him which is also suggested by the rather diminutive phrase such as “They’re in the top drawer, William,/Under your socks-“. Although not actually textually in the poem, William does have control of the floor- it is by his demand that she runs after and hasn’t time for her own thoughts. Grice’s Maxims of relevance and manner are forced to be flouted here, but obviously not by the first person narrator, but by her brother as he constantly interrupts her thoughts with irrelevant whines. This is the reason ‘Dorothy Wordsworth is Not as Famous as her Brother’ she abandons herself in aid of her younger brother and by doing so feeds him her (suggested) original poems that made William famous in the first place. This poem could also be a perspective, seen as a reported speech (schema-oriented language[7]) rather than an omniscient account of the narrators speech. It is possible that there is another listener (perhaps a friend a Dorothy’s) who has witnessed these conversations; as she is listening to her friend try and tell her about ‘wandering lonely as a cloud’ her brothers interruptions have always left her unfinished and therefore less successful than her ‘needy’ brother.

The narrator is certainly not in control of her presentation, the constant interruption to her thoughts are a clear explanation of this, Mick Short suggests that a first person narrator almost always has a controlled viewpoint “choosing to describe only what could be seen from a particular position” therefore opposing the Narrative Report of Action/Speech (NRA/NRS)[8] which the narrator certainly flouts as she is not in control. She is in constant check with her brother, also shown by using deictic expressions “No not that drawer, the top one” rather than her own viewpoint.. her loneliness going unfinished and the “flock” unknown, her viewpoint is distracted by the views and wants of her brother. The ellipsis and dashes suggest her inner frustration as she keeps being interrupted, although she seems kind and attentive in tone (we assume as it is not a performance piece). The narrator, Dorothy, relates to Clov in ‘Endgame’ as the ellipsis also suggests an expectation of interruption-she almost waits upon this assumption, just as Clov does with Hamm. Also similar to Endgame, there are aspects of speech realism (such as the interruptions) and a verbal stream of speech or thought.

In conclusion, I have found that phonology and transcription in performed literature, the literary pragmatics as well as the speech and thought presentation associated within these texts can all be intertwined no matter if it is written for performance or simply printed form, both texts have characterisations of everyday troubles, whether it is the selfishness of one’s pain or the obligations of someone else’s needs in which they (suggestively) eventually take credit of all your work. These combined create a bleak outlook on life’s truths, we may always be with obligations and have selfish thoughts in which both Samuel Beckett and Lynn Peters play on profusely.

[1] Cronin, Anthony, Samuel Beckett The last Modernist, First Da Capo Press edition  1999, New York p83

[2] Endgame, dir. by Tony Coe, (BBC 1989) [On DVD]

[3] Paul Grice (1975) philosopher, Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose (1996) pp.241

The maxim of quantity, where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.

The maxim of quality, where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.

The maxim of relation, where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.

The maxim of manner, when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.

[4] Knowlson, James, Knowlson, Elizabeth, ed., Beckett Remembering, Remembering Beckett, (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2006) pp.87

[5] De Selincourt, Ernest, Dorothy Wordsworth a Biography, (The Clarendon press 1933)

[6] Paxton, Hood, Edwin, William Wordsworth: A Biography (Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1856)

[7]http://www.brics.dk, Schema Languages, (http://www.brics.dk/ixwt/IXWT_C04c.pdf) accessed: 11.00 6/12/12

[8] Leech & Short (2007), Style in Fiction, Chapter 10 (accessed through Moodle, lesson plans)

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