Cliché and Voice in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days - Limit(e) Beckett

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1 Clich and Voice in Samuel Becketts Happy Days Llewellyn Brown HAPPY DAYS IS ESSENTIALLY A MONOLOGUE WHERE WINNIE speaks alone, from time to time engaging a semblance of dialogue with Willie. The flow of her speech is constant: Winnie passes time with words. However the text indicates that her bodily agitation is equally as constant: we note not only movements, but also pauses indicating interruptions, that reveal the presence of fractures in her speech. We also observe that in this play, speech appears to be situated on the same plane as the manipulation of objects: the proximity of these two dimensions brings to the fore the predominance of linguistic automatisms, clichs, in Winnies speech. The predominance of clich in Winnies speech has already been noticed. Paul Lawley remarks: The famous words of others constitute her greatest bulwark; she is an inveterate alluder (Lawley 95). It has also been noticed LLEWELLYN BROWN is a teacher of literature at the Lyce international of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and a tutor at the University of Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Dfense. His research, oriented by Lacanian psychoanalysis, is centred on 20th Century French literature. His published works include Figures du mensonge littraire : essais sur lcriture au XXe sicle (chapters dealing with the work of: Giono, Genet, Proust, Duras, Aragon, Jabs, Sarraute. LHarmattan, 2005); LEsthtique du pli dans luvre de Henri Michaux (Lettres modernes Minard, 2007); Beckett, les fictions brves : voir et dire (Lettres modernes Minard, 2008); trange amour, portrait en nigme (ditions D. Reinharc, 2009). He is the founding director of the Samuel Beckett Series Lettres modernes Minard) : Samuel Beckett 1 : LAscse du sujet (2011) ; Samuel Beckett 2 : Enjeux desthtique (publication programmed for 2011).

2 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 that the use of clich is marked by the broken and incoherent nature of Winnies speech. Jean-Claude Larrat points out that if her expression of marvelling is applied randomly to all and anything (Larrat 64; our translation), her words are not related to her context, and are not motivated by a desire to communicate. What is more, the already there that characterises the clich has neither order, nor consistency, nor coherence (Larrat 117; our translation). Elizabeth Barry sees in Winnies clichs an expression of nostalgia for a lost world of commonality (Barry 118). For our part, we shall aim to define the linguistic structure of clichs in Happy Days, in order to show how their dominance tends to manifest an effacing of any subjective or personal dimension of the character. This obliteration is linked to the rigid and full nature of clichs, which shows them to be real that is to say, absolutely non-negotiable and impossible to dissociate from their inexpressible reverse side. It is in this way that clichs contribute to create a scenic presence of a strange beauty. Multiple forms of clich The term clich unites several strata of meaning. In French, the initial meaning dates from 1809: A plaque bearing in relief the reproduction of a page of composition [] and allowing the printing of a number of copies without deteriorating the original (Rey; our translation). The idea of the clich thus includes both a material dimension and the notion of serial reproduction, detached from the original creation. Ruth Amossy and Elisheva Rosen point out that the clich does not exist by itself, as a purely objective phenomenon, but is always perceived as borrowed (Amossy and Rosen 17; our translation), and Elizabeth Barry observes that, contrary to 2

3 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days idiom, it is felt to have fallen (Barry 2006, 4). In their definition, Amossy and Rosen add that clich renders manifest the discourse of the Other: diffuse and anonymous speech that belongs to all and bears the mark of society (Amossy and Rosen 17; our translation). If this analysis of clich accentuates and rightly so the clichs social aspect, its presence in Happy Days will not constitute the main thrust of our study. If the clich requires to be studied in context (Amossy and Rosen, 22), a literary work creates a construction that testifies to a specific form and usage of clich: the latter will be revelatory of an original approach to creation. The categories of clich in Happy Days are multiple. What characterises them as a whole is the fact that they are utterances originating in common discourse. Somewhat paradoxically, we will also classify as clichs utterances of a literary origin. Of course, they were originally singular creations that took form (according to the French or English versions of the play) under the pens of Milton, Shakespeare (Hamlet, Cymbeline), Yeats, Racine, Verlaine, Thomas Gray. However their inclusion in Winnies speech reduces these elements to their status as part of a common cultural reserve, to the point of annulling their specificity. For example, no allusion is made to their literary source, and they are often placed on the same level as the characters other phrases. Certainly, Winnie often indicates their citational character, but she does so by means of a sentence that, itself, constitutes a stereotyped formula: That is what I find so wonderful, a part remains, of ones classics, to help one through the day (164). The expression ones classics denotes a distant appreciation, designating a category of works that remain cut off from living speech, from their creative dimension. This fits in with Amossy and Rosens distinction between literary allusion and clich: whereas the former 3

4 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 maintains a precise link to a precise text, the clich effaces this connection (Amossy and Rosen 16). The recourse to pre-formatted speech is manifest in the moments when the two characters read various texts aloud. Winnie reads labels, such as the one describing the product intended to remedy a lack of energy Loss of spirits lack of keenness want of appetite (141) or that of the toothbrush (153). For his part, Willie supplies the dictionary definition of the word hog (159). He also reads passages from the newspaper, giving a picture of the traditional Ireland, whose narrow-mindedness Beckett denounced (142, 159). In these readings the characters speech is reduced to the repetition of existing utterances. We also find sentences from everyday language, betraying an absence of invention, but whose source is not always identifiable. These are reified expressions. A number of Winnies sentences are manifestly ready-made phrases. Such are the following, among others: poor Willie [] no zest [] for anything [] no interest [] in life (139). This overview of the diverse forms of clich present in Happy Days suggests the necessity of postulating a degree of continuity between these different levels. What characterises the clich is, through its repetition, its formulaic nature: the Latin etymon formula signifying frame, rule, system. If the clich is generally reproved, in any somewhat refined discourse and, a fortiori, in the context of creation it is because it is reputed to denote an absence of care and reflection, on the speakers behalf, a negligence resulting from his refusal to seek originality and personal authenticity. However, if 4

5 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days this conception remains valid on the imaginary level where one evaluates others , in Becketts creation it touches on a dimension we can qualify in Lacanian terms as real. In order to grasp this aspect of the clich, it is important to first establish the structure that is at work. Forclosure It is instructive to approach the clich in the light of the structuring of language, taking into account the retroactive mechanism of the signifier, which unfolds in two stages. Since discourse is deployed on a diachronic axis following a progressive movement meaning can only appear as a result of a punctuation that brings this movement to an end. Such punctuation is situated in the place of the Other, as Jacques Lacan points out: Meaning always goes towards something, towards another signification, towards the closing of the signification, it always refers to something that is before or that turns back on itself (Lacan 1981, 155; our translation). As Beckett declares very explicitly in Texts for Nothing: its for ever the same murmur, flowing unbroken, like a single endless word and therefore meaningless, for its the end gives the meaning to words (Beckett 1995, 131). Carried along by his enunciation, this particular narrator is unable to achieve the closure necessary to form an utterance capable of producing meaning. Through the phrasal closure, however, the utterance that is inaugurated in a movement of anticipation returns to the subject from the place of the Other. A subject who is, ab initio, inscribed in such a dynamic, will have access to a dialectic1 owing to which, subsequently, any new experience will be assimilated by means of this same mechanism. As Alain Vaissermann explains: For the neurotic [what one would call a normal subject], any 5

6 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 appearance of a signifier coming from the Other, arriving out of the unknown, will be referred back to a signifier known previously: this mechanism is intended to integrate the new into the old, to relate the unknown to what was previously known, that is to say to symbolise it by integrating it into his story (Vaissermann 4). Such a subject is thus, to a large extent, armed in advance against the sudden appearance of unknown events, whose brutal force is thus attenuated. The specificity of the Beckettian subject, however, consists in not being born.2 The latter expression, which is fundamental to Becketts work, demands not to be understood as an anecdotal reference to the state of a large number of characters such as Malones death being the inversion of birth, or the inability of the narrator of The Unnamable to get born (Beckett 376) but on a structural level, where the subject has not been instituted, once and for all, in language. Consequently, he has not had access to a dialectic that would allow him to situate himself in relation to new events. He is thus confronted with a dimension that is excluded from representation, and for which he is not armed. This part of language that exceeds the utterance and meaning and that never ceases to inhabit the speech of any subject is called the voice: the voice is firstly present in the place of the Other, designating the subject precisely where he cannot respond, but at a point where he is nevertheless summoned to respond (Vaissermann 54). What the subject encounters here is a breach that it is impossible to negotiate, an abyss that he finds himself brutally referred back to.3 He in no way disposes of the means to respond to this call. It is this precise experience that the narrator of The Unnamable describes in the following sentence: there is nothing to be done, nothing special to be done, nothing doable to be 6

7 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days done (Beckett 2009b, 378). Only a symbolic Other can, by instituting the subject within a dialectical framework, open up the domain of the feasible (Beckett 1983, 141), or have the subject restored to the feasible (Beckett 1995, 116). Failing this, as Lacan explains for the schizophrenic subject, all the symbolic is real (Lacan 1966, 392; our translation): no dialectic is available for him to deal with the abyss. We can thus perceive what distinguishes the use of clichs in everyday language, from what we observe in Beckett. If, in the first case, it is a matter of a simple renunciation of any intellectual effort, in the second, the subject finds himself at grips with an impossibility. If the subject thus appears to be radically dispossessed, it is because everything in language is henceforth situated on the side of the Other. Thus, when Elizabeth Barry notes, in relation to the notion of authority, that Becketts work explores the notion of an origin that one cannot find (Barry 7), we would add that what takes the place of this origin is what Beckett called the absolute absence of the Absolute (Beckett 1983, 33). Thus it is that, in Happy Days, the clich takes the form of a massive borrowing of utterances that are entirely situated in a manifest manner in the domain of the Other: whether it be the dictionary words that condition everyones speech or literary utterances, they are all rigorously placed on the same level, they all manifest the same degree of reality. The recourse to pre-existing elements characterises the subjects that, following Hlne Deutsches analysis, act as if it imposes the necessity of borrowing attributes (words, attitudes, gestures) from the Other, but also reveals the subjects powerlessness to bind them within a dialectic.4 7

8 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 In this study, we will therefore understand the word clich as the preponderant weight of the language seen as belonging overwhelmingly to the Other both in the phrases she utters and in her interruptions to the exclusion of any subjective expression; the latter being accessible only by means of an enunciation that, as such, engenders a division between the manifest meaning and a hidden or involuntary one.5 Monologue To call Winnie a character is problematic, since her speech is marked by a radical absence of any subjectivity: the latter can only manifest itself as a result of retroaction. With Winnie, we find no trace of an effect of truth, capable of testifying to the subjects singularity: There is so little one can say, one says it all. [Pause.] All one can. [Pause.] And no truth in it anywhere (161). Truth here does not denote a correlation between an utterance and the world; it is of a specifically subjective nature. Winnie however does not make a series of statements in order to attain a truth of this kind. She simply speaks in order to say. In doing so, she situates herself resolutely on the side of utterances, to the exclusion of enunciation. Her discourse is a monologue because the words she flings in Willies direction are only the simulacrum of an exchange. Once again, Beckett radically annuls the idea of communication, as Lacan does in the same way: Communication as such is not primitive since originally S [the subject at the stage of its mythical origin, before being marked by language] has nothing to communicate, for the reason that all the instruments of communication are on the other side, in the field of the 8

9 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days Other, and he has to receive them from the latter (Lacan 2004, 314-5). Regarding communication, Lacan speaks of fictional interlocution (Lacan 1981, 131): it is a purely imaginary language, a semblance of communication, nourished by clichs. What Lacan points out here regarding our everyday conception of linguistic exchanges acquires specific importance in Happy Days. In this play, the appearance of communication does not allow for the instituting of true semblances (vrais-semblants), as may often be the case, in our everyday life: it is real, non-negotiable. Thus Winnie resorts to repeating her utterances, inserting the words I say, in an effort to latch on to the utterance per se, to the exclusion of any hidden or equivocal dimension. It is striking to notice that Lacan comments on precisely this form of speech, pointing out first that the free association practiced in psychoanalysis is intended to open up the space of enunciation. In this way, the subject no longer tries to observe the conformity of his expression with received criteria, endowed with general validity, but accepts the risk of revealing the (usually unpleasant or unacceptable) signifiers that determine his existence: The subject is dispensed from supporting his discourse with an I say. Speaking is quite a different matter from stating I say what I have just stated. [In doing so] I say what is written here, and I can even repeat it, which is essential, in the form in which, by repeating it, in order to vary, I add that I have written it. (Lacan 2006, 19). In the same way, since she has at her disposal no subjective foundation capable of giving her access to enunciation, Winnie feels the need to give her discourse a new start by means of the same phrase: I used to think [pause] I say I used to think (162).6 By these repeated starts, Winnie asserts that she hears herself. 9

10 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 However, we notice a gap here between the French and the English. Where Oh les beaux jours has Winnie hearing herself Mais je me lentends dire [] (1995, 39); Je mentends dire, Tais-toi maintenant, Winnie (48) the English expresses the voice in its strangeness and its exteriority, by use of the indefinite pronoun something: But something tells me [] (2006, 151); Something says, Stop talking now Winnie (155). In the French version, Winnie attempts to maintain a grip on herself by latching onto the utterance in an attempt to avoid the unspeakable abyss which she encounters in the place of enunciation. Winnies repetitions compose a mosaic of self-quotations, as she fabricates clichs from her own utterances. In the same way as Winnie must reinforce her statements with an I say, she indicates the importance of habit by expressions such as these: thats what I always say (156); Ah yes, things have their life, that is what I always say, things have a life (162). Once she has pronounced a sentence, it is as if it belonged to a repertoire of utterances, comparable to her bag, of which she asks herself: Could I enumerate its contents? (151). A subject who thus loses all autonomy in speech shows himself to be spoken by the Other. As Daniel Katz observes: A clich demonstrates the otherness speaking through us, speaking us like a language [] to the extent that it is an automatic response. (Katz 130). However, it is important to measure the shift wrought by Beckett. If we are all spoken by the Other by the very fact that language is imposed on us in the form of an absolute and unmoveable environment, by the fact of being conditioned by the desire and the subjective inertia of our parents we often succeed in dissimulating 10

11 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days this fundamental alienation behind a mask of individuality. But in Becketts work, this dimension comes immediately to the fore, excluding all appearance of individuality.7 Being spoken by the Other should be understood, in Beckett, in a sense that is immediately and integrally real. Thus it is that Winnie is led to address her exhortations to herself: Sing your song, Winnie (159); Pray your prayer, Winnie (159).8 In these sentences, Winnie is the bearer of the voice of the Other, in the sense that her words ostensibly appear as those of a parent addressing his child: How often I have said, Put on your hat now Winnie, [] like a good girl, it will do you good (146). The stage indications repeat this idea, emphasising the manner in which Winnie speaks to herself: Sharply, as to one not paying attention (145). In these passages, the dimension of addressing such as we defined it at the beginning of our demonstration is totally lacking: it is not a subject who speaks to himself in the usual sense of the expression but, to be exact, it is the Other of language who makes himself heard in the words pronounced by the character. Winnie can only act, accomplish movements, under the effect of the injunctive force of language, not as an expression of a personal decision. Thus, for example, we find a form of prosopopoeia where reason appears to be personified, in an adaptation of the stereotyped expression: Reason says [] (153).9 Contrary to what happens ordinarily in the learning process, for example the words Winnie pronounces never end up belonging to her, and everything that comes from the Other remains revocable: Words fail, there are times when even they fail (147). For this reason, she seeks a link to words that endure, such as those of classics. But, ironically, she forgets the 11

12 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 very phrases she qualifies as unforgettable: What is that unforgettable line? (160); What are those exquisite lines? [] One loses ones classics (164); There is my story, of course, when all else fails (163). The common or shared domain that pervades Winnies discourse into which she tirelessly delves remains definitively on the side of the Other of language. Winnie can in no way appropriate language in an inalienable manner: an abyss lies between her and her utterances. It is precisely the borrowed nature of her language language that has never been integrated into a form of subjectivity that makes her speech impervious to the radical inflexion that subjectivity habitually imposes on our utterances. Absence of meaning Winnies words are clichs in that they clearly reveal their autonomous nature. Detached from any enunciation likely to endow them with an anchoring and give them meaning, they represent only a ready-made meaning, without the inscription of the slightest breach that could mark a subjective position. Her utterances embody the frozen, sedimented meanings that are conserved by collective existence. As a result of being enclosed within their pre-constituted meaning, Winnies utterances become empty, being repeated in the form of the ritornello. The latter, as Lacan emphasises, is the form signification assumes when it no longer refers to anything. It is what we could call, as opposed to the word, the ritornello (Lacan 1981, 44; our translation).10 The ritornello thus testifies to an emptying of meaning. Winnies entire discourse is punctuated by refrains and ritornelli such as the following: great mercy (161); Oh yes, great mercies, great mercies (161); The old style! (162); 12

13 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days That is what I find so wonderful (164). These refrains are often composed of terms expressing a resolutely optimistic vision: Marvellous gift [] wish I had it (140); Oh this is going to be another happy day! (142). Such optimism does not express a world view nothing authorises us to ascribe a will or a vision to Winnie as a character but an imperative emanating from language, enjoining Winnie to postulate the existence of a guarantor of meanings. It is not a matter of an authority capable of ensuring the consistency of shared reality, but one that would allow her to continue to turn her back on the threatening void. Such is the sense of Winnies reading aloud the label on the toothbrush: Fully guaranteed [head up] whats this it was ? [] Genuine pure fully guaranteed [] genuine pure ah ! hogs setae (158-9). The irony here, that a simple commercial label claims to offer such a guarantee, is ferocious. Moreover, the latter concerns a product derived from a hog, that is to say, an animal deprived of its virile attributes: Castrated male swine. [] Reared for slaughter (159). It also guarantees to preserve keenness (141), in accordance with advertising slogans, that is to say a promise emanating from the domain of institutionalised dupery. Of course, such guarantees refer to an environment totally foreign to the world evoked in the play: they are without any real or verifiable relevance. We can interpret in the same way the speech expressing belief in Providence, as in Winnies payers. The assurance of an agent guaranteeing the reliability of language and meanings remains, of course, totally vain. In Winnies speech, significations are reduced to themselves: superfluous, redundant, for want of being articulated with a dimension of subjective truth; without any purchase on a reality that exceeds them, and in which they could find an anchorage. 13

14 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 Words as things Winnies utterances compose a discourse intended to give substance to speech, in order to fill up her day. Words thus appear to be things,11 insofar as they are not subordinated to any subjective dialectic.12 Treated like objects, Winnies clichs are closed utterances, endowed with their content of meaning and devoid of any possibility of providing an opening to the unknown. Thus, Winnies words only exist in a limited quantity, and she uses them to give content to her day: they help me through the day (162). She warns herself against the possible risk of prematurely using up her supply of words: dont squander all your words for the day (155). The same principle applies to the alternation between words and gestures, as we see, for example, in the following sentence: what are those wonderful lines [wipes one eye] woe woe is me [wipes the other] to see what I see [looks for spectacles] ah yes (140). The evocation of the wonderful lines from Hamlet is interrupted by the search for her spectacles, while entering in resonance with this searching (I see, leading to spectacles). In the same way, Winnie speaks of enumerating the content of her bag (151): the latter constitutes a collection of objects, like the repertoire of words and sentences. Winnies speech expresses her fear of finding herself faced with a stretch of time that she would be powerless to fill with utterances: what could I do, all day long, I mean between the bell for waking and the bell for sleep? (145); Sometimes all is over, for the day [] and the day not over (157). When speech is conditioned by a dialectical structure, it never ceases to renew 14

15 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days itself, showing the effects of a desire that obeys the laws of negative entropy: it allows for linguistic creation, the discovery of new unsuspected perspectives. However, in the absence of the dimension of linguistic retroaction, Winnie has no means of orienting herself in a temporality productive of newness. For her, everything remains a question of routine, of repetition and filling up. Her universe is congruent with that of the famous incipit of Murphy: The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new (Beckett 2009a, 3). As with the effect of truth, orientation in a temporal framework is above all of a subjective nature; it has nothing to do with a simple conformity with a timeline. Consequently, Winnie proves to be incapable of localising the appropriate moment to accomplish an action or pronounce a phrase. Thus, she says of the song: It bubbles up, for some unknown reason, the time is ill chosen, one chokes it back (164). Winnies anxiety is born from the consciousness of an abyss within herself, to such a point that if speech were to come to a halt, nothing would afford a barrier to impede her fatal fall. The Past Insofar as it remains subordinated to the address towards the Other and to enunciation, speech is marked by the logics of anticipation. The creation of a signified results from a looping that closes this progression, by means of a movement of retroaction. By contrast, the use of the clich crushes enunciation, enclosing it within a past that is definitively consumed. We recognise here the preponderance of the old style: an expression that in no way refers to a chronological past. In this text, the world of the past indicated by the words that day (161, 162) has no tangible existence 15

16 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 outside of Winnies speech. It has no existence on a historical or realistic level: this world that no longer exists cannot be situated.13 As Elizabeth Barry observes, it might be Winnies ideas themselves rather than their linguistic expression that are superannuated. They have, perhaps, lost their currency in a universe impervious to human description or understanding (Barry 119). The past evoked in this play is basically of a logical nature, instating an impassable distance between the subject and common representations. Winnies clichs are so many elements borrowed from the petrified traversable space (Beckett 1995, 111). In the same sense, the directions indicate the stage set: Very pompier trompe-lil backcloth (138). The notion of the past affects the plays very temporality: for the characters, there is no longer any natural day/night rhythm. Winnie and Willie are cut off from any reference to a chronological flow that characterises realistic representations. Everything follows the arbitrary interventions of the bell. James Knowlson notes that according to Beckett, time is quite simply incomprehensible to her. She feels that everything will remain the same and cannot understand how past events can have any relationship to the present (Knowlson 1985, 151). The past is not situated in continuity with the present; it only represents a vague elsewhere. As Beckett explained to Alan Schneider: Old style and smile always provoked by word day and derivatives of similar. There is no more day in the old sense because there is no more night, i.e. nothing but day. It is in a way an apologetic smile for speaking in a style no longer valid. Old style suggests also of course old calendar before revision. (Letter of 3 September 1961, Harmon102) 16

17 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days The expression nothing but the day expresses here the preponderance not only of the dazzling light (blaze of hellish light, 140) that allows for no shade, no nuance but also the exclusive existence of meanings fixed once and for all,14 and that admit no breach for a subjective existence: in this universe, the Other remains oppressing, refusing the possibility for the subject to construct his own meaning.15 The clich and its reverse side If the clich constitutes the manifest side of discourse a discourse that, in Winnies case is desperately rectilinear, without a fault it is because its reverse side remains omnipresent. This reverse side cannot be conceived as a simple unconscious that manifests itself through Freudian slips, through undertones. On the contrary: we notice rather the radical absence of any discursive hinterland. Nothing is hidden, everything is manifest. The omnipresence of a discourse that is entirely made up of clichs, of utterances devoid of enunciation corresponding to the blinding light that inundates the stage makes the abyss even more present. Thus, whereas clichs are usually utterances closed on themselves, marking a (redundant) fullness of meaning, it is the abolition of meaning and interruption that dominate. Beckett qualifies Winnie as an interrupted being.16 We notice, for example, the reversals where Winnie systematically alternates between the smile expressing a calm closure, and the opening up to anxiety: all comes back. [Pause.] All ? [Pause.] No, not all. [Smile.] No no. [Smile off.] Not quite (144). Ordinarily, dialectical speech, having its anchorage in the dimension of the real, allows a subject to face the unknown, to find ways to bypass the impossible and reduce its incidence. With Winnie, however, the succession of clichs is doubled by her fundamental powerlessness, to which 17

18 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 we can ascribe no visible cause: To think there are times one cannot take off ones hat, not even if ones life were at stake. [] How often I have said, Put on your hat now Winnie, there is nothing else for it, take off your hat now Winnie, like a good girl, it will do you good, and did not. [Pause.] Could not (146). Both sides the full meaning of the utterance (the exhortation to put her hat on) and the absolute void (unexplainable paralysis) relay each other here, like the two sides of a Mbius strip: nothing ensures their mediation or attenuates their implacable alternation. We can see clich as determined, to a certain degree, by habit, as Beckett defines it in Proust: Habit is a compromise effected between the individual and his environment, or between the individual and his own organic eccentricities, the guarantee of a dull inviolability (1987, 18-9). However, the reverse side of habit is not personal singularity and expression which clich is designed to efface but is defined by Beckett in terms of suffering: perilous zones in the life of the individual, dangerous, precarious, painful, mysterious and fertile, when for a moment the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being (19). It is this abrupt, antithetical structure that the clich brings into play in Happy Days. If the clich is an emanation of the voice of the Other, in its imperative force, we can consider the bell that rings piercingly (Beckett 2006, 138) as the clich reduced to its simplest expression. Words are things, for Winnie; and the bell appears as the essence of the thing beyond all meaning, beyond any image.17 The bell does not fill up the day, it institutes it, following the unpredictable logic of caprice. Thus, if it rings twice at the beginning of the first act (insisting, in order to wake Winnie up), all semblance of control is 18

19 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days lost in the second (160, 161, 162, 164, 168). The bells particularity is to be entirely situated on the side of the Other it is not even part of the discourse that traverses Winnie and it intervenes like a violent blow that subjugates the body.18 It presents an aspect that escapes meaning it is a ritornello taken to its most acute intensity but, for this very reason, it is characterised by its efficiency, just like the tormenting sun. Winnie emphasises this unbearable and physical nature of the bell: It hurts like a knife. [Pause.] A gouge. [Pause.] One cannot ignore it (162). The bell thus represents a real distress; it tortures Winnie. The bells intensity leads us to investigate the reverse side of the clich: no longer in its tautological nature (the utterance closed in on its own signifier) but in its exclusion from representation. This reverse side is situated in the tormenting voice. Thus, whereas Winnie appears to dispose freely of clichs and objects, she is in reality subjected to the voice. The latter infiltrates Winnies speech, in the second act: I say I used to think they were in my head. [Smile.] But no. [Smile broader.] No no. [Smile off.] That was just logic. [Pause.] Reason. I have not lost my reason. [Pause.] Not yet. [Pause.] Not all (162); No no my head was always full of cries (164); I hear cries. [Pause.] Do you ever hear cries, Willie? (167). These cries are manifestations of the voice, if we consider the latter as a logical category. It is what exceeds the looping formed by enunciation, what insists insofar as Winnies utterances are closed in on themselves, revealing the void that words, for lack of a dialectical mechanism, are unable to breach. This tension is suggested in the expression: Beauty is a gasp between clichs (Beckett 1983, 78). We can associate this voice Like little sunderings, little falls apart (162) with the Beckettian motifs of the cyclone of electrons (Beckett 1992, 113), 19

20 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 or the insurrection des molcules (insurrection of molecules; our translation), where tout bouge, nage, fuit, revient, se dfait, se refait. Tout cesse, sans cesse (everything moves, swims, flees, returns, is undone and reforms. All ceases, ceaselessly; our translation) (Beckett 1990, 35). Consequently this voice which embodies Winnies anxiety19 is the image of that which is not shown, and which represents the reverse side of the stage set: we can mention the ants that threaten to devour Winnie, while she is completely immobilised in the mound; the darkness, the night, the earth that is absorbing her slowly, surely.20 Winnies clichs thus appear as a register of language that expresses her powerlessness to resist the mortal decline: once again, like the Mbius strip, where nothing can stop the reverse side from appearing in the same place as the front side.21 This dimension of the voice is precisely evoked by Beckett when he describes to Brenda Bruce the horror of Winnies situation, and adds: And I thought who would cope with that and go down singing, only a woman (qtd. in Knowlson 1997, 501). The clichs platitude, their noisy and incessant chattering is mingled with impenetrable silence, finally turning into a song. Conclusion In Happy Days, the clich is the form assumed by signifiers that are closed in on the signified, with the consequence that words appear as objects. Words and things relay each other, occupying and organising Winnies space on stage. The preponderance of the clich, in this play, testifies to the insistence of utterances that exclude any dimension of address. In her monologue, Winnie shows to what extent she is foreign to the logic of anticipation that is inherent in enunciation. We thus find created a strange musicality in a structure that Beckett renders manifest where the static quality is 20

21 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days conjugated with an increasing degradation.22 Paradoxically, Winnies forced optimism is infinitely moving, because she knows no subjectivity: through her, a human presence persists in the midst of a situation that appears hostile to any humanity. 1 Of the psychotic, Lacan notes: he is inaccessible, inert, stagnant as regards any dialectic (Lacan 1981, 31; our translation). 2 The trouble with her was she had never really been born! (All that Fall in Beckett 2006, 196). See also Juliet, 15. 3 At the point where [] the Name-of-the-Father is called upon, can thus respond in the Other a pure and simple hole (Lacan 1966, 558). 4 An association made by velyne Grossman (Grossman 77). 5 The hidden or involuntary meaning would, in this, case, be considered as the discourse of the Other. in the sense that the subject addresses himself to the latter and can, in the event of Freudian slips, for example, recognize the disquieting presence of this strangeness in the words he thought he controlled completely. 6 See also pp. 25, 28, 29. 7 Which gives an answer to Katz: it is striking that in an ostensible commentary on Joyce, Lacan evokes none other than the most typical Beckettian enunciative situation (Katz 132). In both cases, the same subjective structure is at work. 8 The grammatical construction that makes use of the internal object underscores the clichd nature of these sentences. 9 James Knowlson notes that in the Schiller production, Winnie adopted the imaginary voice of reason (Knowlson 1985, 128). We also find the voice of reason in Texts for Nothing (Beckett 1995, 118). 10 Years later, Deleuze and Guattari made the term ritornello famous (Deleuze and Guattari, 381-433: chapter 1837: de la ritournelle). Deleuze read Lacan early on, following Lacans seminar Logique du fantasme (1966-67), as is evidenced by references in Logique du sens (1969). In his seminar, Lacan praised this book very highly (Lacan 2006, 218, 225, 227). 11 Hanna Segal has spoken of the difficulty for schizophrenics to attain symbolic thinking, and their experience of objects as real. She evokes the symbolic equation where, The symbol does not represent the object, but is treated as though it was the object (Segal 43). However, in the light of Lacanian developments regarding the object as determined by a lack, the fact that any recognizable object is already constructed by the signifier, and particularly the tripartite distribution of the categories Real, Symbolic and Imaginary, Segals observations do little to deepen our understanding of the way in which words can come to be considered as things. 12 This aspect needs to be distinguished from a purely imaginary conception we find, for example in Giono, who praises the power of creative language: au lieu des mots, ctaient 21

22 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 les choses elles-mmes quil vous jetait dessus / instead of words, he threw the things themselves at you (Giono 285-6). 13 That day. [] What day? (147). 14 We develop this structural question in our book (Brown, 2008, 103 sqq.). 15 We are no longer in the symmetrically inverse situation: that of The Unnamable, where the obscurity of pure enunciation dominates (the imperative to continue, on), and which knows no punctuation capable of instituting meaning. 16 Beckett declares to Billie Whitelaw: One of the clues of the play is interruption []. Something begins ; something else begins. She begins but doesnt carry through with it. Shes constantly being interrupted or interrupting herself. Shes an interrupted being (Knowlson 1985, 16). 17 Cf., according to their varying modalities: the chime in Footfalls/Pas, the goad in Acts without words II/Actes sans paroles II, knocks on the table in Ohio impromptu/Impromptu dOhio. In Happy Days, however, Beckett insisted on the inhuman quality of the bell, to the detriment of any picturesque or reassuring aspect: Im after a searing, cutting quality. It [the bell] should be brief and cut off suddenly, clean cut like a blow or a knife on metal (Knowlson 1985, 141). 18 It is worth noticing, by way of contrast, that Beckett replaced the alarm clock, that was present in the original drafts, with this unbearable bell (Gontarski 77). Besides having a much gentler sound, the alarm clock allows the character to have some control over the way she experiences her day. 19 Not forgetting however that sounds also help Winnie to get through her day: They are a boon, sounds are a boon, they help me through the day (162). 20 The progressive disappearance of her body corresponds to death: Does she feel her legs ? he says. [Pause.] Is there any life in her legs ? he says (165). Cf. I am being given, if I may venture the expression, birth into death, such is my impression. The feet are clear already, of the great cunt of existence (Beckett 2009b, 276) 21 Hwa-Soon Kim notes the relationship between the stage set and the question of language: The mound, which gets higher, can also imply the heap of Winnies failed words. In this respect, Winnies mound is her visual resistance against the discourse of the Other (70). However she does not mention what we could also call the bootstrap structure, whereby Winnies discourse is powerless to impede her continual decline, for lack of a third term capable of introducing a salutary separation. 22 Everything is wearing out or running out. At the start of Act I she takes the last swig of her tonic before throwing away the bottle, her toothbrush has hardly any hairs left and the lipstick, to use Becketts expression, is visibly zu ende, the parasol is faded with a mangy fringe and even her pearl necklace is more thread than pearls (Reading University Library MS 1396/4/10, pp 80-83. Quoted in Pountney, 185). 22

23 Brown | Clich and Voice in Happy Days Works Cited Amossy, Ruth, and Elisheva Rosen. Les Discours du clich. Paris: Sedes, 1982. Barry, Elizabeth. Beckett and Authority: The Uses of Clich. Houndmills, Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Beckett, Samuel. Disjecta. London: John Calder, 1983. ---. Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit. London: John Calder, 1987. ---. Le Monde et le pantalon suivi de Peintres de lempchement. Paris: Minuit, 1990. ---. Dream of Fair to Middling Women. Dublin: The Black Cat Press, 1992. ---. The Complete Short Prose: 1929-1989. New York: Grove Press, 1995. ---. Oh les beaux jours suivi de Pas moi. Paris: Minuit, 1996. ---. The Complete Dramatic Works. London: Faber & Faber, 2006. ---. Murphy. London: Faber and Faber, 2009a. ---. Three Novels. New York: Grove Press, 2009b. Brown, Llewellyn. Beckett, les fictions brves: Voir et dire. Caen: ditions Lettres modernes Minard, 2008. Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari. Capitalisme et schizophrnie: mille plateaux. Paris: Minuit, 1980. Giono, Jean. Colline. uvres romanesques compltes. Vol. 1. Ed. Robert Ricatte et al. Paris: Gallimard, 1982. Gontarski, S. E. The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Becketts Dramatic Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Grossman, velyne. LEsthtique de Beckett. Paris: Sedes, 1998. Harmon, Maurice. No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 1999. 23

24 Limit{e} Beckett 2 | Spring 2011 Juliet, Charles. Rencontres avec Samuel Beckett. Paris: P.O.L., 2007. Katz, Daniel. Saying I no more: Subjectivity and Consciousness in the Prose of Samuel Beckett. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1999. Kim, Hwa-Soon. The Counterpoint of Hope, Obsession, and Desire for Death in Five Plays by Samuel Beckett. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. Knowlson, James. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. London; Berlin; New York: Bloomsbury, 1997. ---. ed. Happy days: The Production Notebook of Samuel Beckett. London: Faber and Faber, 1985. Lacan, Jacques. crits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. ---. Le Sminaire, Livre III, Les Psychoses. Paris: Seuil, 1981. ---. Le Sminaire, Livre X, LAngoisse. Paris: Seuil, 2004. ---. Le Sminaire, Livre XVI, Dun Autre lautre. Paris: Seuil, 2006. Larrat, Jean-Claude. Problmatiques. Beckett: En attendant Godot, Oh les beaux jours. Jean-Claude Larrat, Caroline Jacques, Catherine Rannoux, Stphane Bikialo. Paris: Atlande, 2009: 47-129. Lawley, Paul. Stages of Identity: From Krapps Last Tape to Play. The Cambridge Companion to Beckett. Ed. John Pilling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994: 88-105. Pountney, Rosemary. Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Becketts Drama 1956-1976. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988. Rey, Alain, ed. Dictionnaire culturel en langue franaise. Paris: Le Robert, 2005. Segal, Hanna. Psychoanalysis, Literature and War: Papers 1972-1995. Ed. and introd. John Steiner. London; New York: Routledge, 1997. Vaissermann, Alain. Les Voix du psychotique. Quarto 54 (De la voix CD version) (June 1994): 4-6. 24

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