Jung and the narratives of ‘Molloy’


J. D. OHara


The present essay condenses an analysis of Molloy that tries to account for all the major elements of plot and structure by treating the novel as a doubling of what Molloy calls ‘that unreal journey’1—Molloy’s in search of his mother and Moran’s in search of Molloy. I try to make coherent sense of these journeys by considering them psychologically, not as the result of traumatic Freudian experiences, but rather as the acting-out of Jungian myths. In Jungian terms and by Jungian standards Moran’s search for a father image is valuable though incomplete, while Molloy’s search-for a mother image is a failure. But in gnostic terms, terms that will govern the next two parts of the trilogy, Molloy’s may be the more nearly successful one.


The most annoying set of details in the novel provides the basis for this approach: the Gaber-Youdi-Obidil organization. Obidil scrambles libido; Gaber suggests the angel whose name means man of God and also the French verb that means to mock. Youdi can be twisted into you/id, you/di (goods, in Latin), and di-you (dieu); it also suggests a French slang term for Jew. The conjunction of these blatantly allegorical characters is at once religious and psychological (Moran evokes St Paul in saying that he has never seen the Obidil ‘either face to face or darkly [162]); and Beckett uses them to identify the at once religious and psychological nature of the archetypal journeys that constitute the novel’s action.


Identifying the Obidil, many readers add a casual adjective and speak of the ‘Freudian’ libido. But that is almost entirely sexual, and none of the novel’s incentives to action is sexual. For Freud the libido is causative, whereas Moran speaks of it as a goal; in Moran’s view one seeks the Obidil rather than being propelled by it from behind. Furthermore, the religious overtones are quite foreign to Freud’s sense of the motives of existence. However, Obidil’s character and function are satisfactorily Jungian. Jung emphasizes the general rather than the specifically sexual nature of the psychic energies which he groups under the term libido, and where the Freudian libido propels the psyche toward short-term satisfactions, Jung emphasizes the acting-out of long-range roles and dramas with such general aims as the internalizing of apparently external forces and the bringing to consciousness of a reasonably complete Self. As I shall attempt to demonstrate, the characterizations and events of Molloy correspond to this goal-oriented sense of psychological life.


For information about the psyche’s roles and dramas Jung turned often to dreams and visions, which he found to be composed at once of personal elements and general types and patterns. Since archetypes, like Platonic ideas, have no necessary outward form of their own, each psyche must find its own costumes, masks and landscapes when it contrives a dream or vision. Since dreams and visions are timeless and spaceless, they look both forward and backward and are not obliged to reproduce the material world. And since the dream—an extended vision, one might say—utilizes that material world for its own purposes, it can—to take Molloy as an example—mix Ireland and France; set its tales in a time without cars, highways, telephones, etc.; reproduce events from one person’s dream in another (the attack on a stranger resembling oneself, the encounter with a shepherd, etc.); and avoid those consistent elements of time, space, and causality with which, as Schopenhauer said, the will constructs its world.


Even the explanations and justifications in Molloy, far from (as one might expect) destroying this dream world, share its mythical and irrational quality. Hearing the angelus, Molloy resolves to visit his mother; under vaguely understood orders from a more vaguely understood detective bureau, Moran sets out to find a stranger who is not a stranger. This kind of dream logic, it should be noticed, has deterred few of Beckett’s readers; that Molloy could misplace his mother and Moran Martha with such indifference, that those two men should write such reports, that practical problems such as food, lodging and taxes should almost disappear . . . all of these are easily accepted. Mere facts are not matters of belief. What we are interested in, when we read stories like these, is what the psyche has to say to the conscious ego. And it is this which constitutes the subject of Molloy.


Many fictional journeys either educate the hero (Tom Jones) or test an education already received (The Odyssey). Neither form is relevant to Molloy except insofar as both provide the reader with expectations that Molloy’s narratives will thwart. But these narratives take on a clear sense if we consider each—both the events and the obiter dicta—as the sequential experiences of a Jungian dream series. Not simplemindedly: Beckett is not reporting his own dreams, and nor are we to imagine that ‘Molloy’ and ‘Moran’ (as I shall call the two narratives) end with an implied revelation: ‘Reader, it was only a dream!’


If we treat these narratives as sophisticated applications of Jungian concepts, we meet with fewer difficulties than those encountered by other approaches. We need not worry about inconsistencies of fact, for instance. Molloy’s hat is returned to him chez Lousse without its elastic; when it is next mentioned it has one. But since the props of a dream are always available for re-use, we can easily accept this inconsistency. Nor is chronology a problem, because the sequence in which the episodes and topics appear is the important matter, and not the ‘actual’ time when the ‘real’ episodes took place. (The story of Ruth/Edith will provide a particularly good illustration.) The absence of realistic cause-and-effect relationships will cease to puzzle, since dream episodes are concomitants of psychic states rather than causes or effects of those states or of ‘real’ events.


Jung understands the unconscious mind as a manipulating organ evolved like the body, over thousands of years, and thereby equipped with particular abilities and functions. Wordless, the unconscious communicates its knowledge to the conscious ego through patterns of response to psychic situations, patterns in which archetypal characters act out archetypal plots. It is especially active in times of stress. The male ego under stress may be warned by, or may seek counsel from, archetypes that correspond roughly to his father (as his Shadow, the dark side of his nature). These figures—which have no necessary relation to one’s actual parents—are most accessible when stress reaches the point of neurosis. Neurosis results from the ego’s inability to alter in accordance with the demands of the new psychic world into which it is moving (the experience described in Watt as a matter of sand grains shifting, in Proust as the old ego dying hard). Ordinarily a simple neurotic regression will evoke the paternal Shadow; if the ego can respond properly, understand and assimilate this experience, the person will be able to move forward into mental health and a new identity. If the neurotic resistance is stronger, the psyche may evoke the mother figure, and a more complex encounter will result.


The protagonists of Molloy are under particular stress at the beginning of their journeys, and each conjures up an image relevant to his psychic situation. Moran’s repressed qualities are vivid in his image of Molloy. As he sums him up, Molloy is ‘nothing but uproar, bulk, rage, suffocation, effort unceasing, frenzied and vain. Just the opposite of myself, in fact’ (113). Affronted by Youdi’s choosing him to seek Molloy, Moran says:


 ‘It is no small matter, for a grown man thinking he is done with surprises, to see himself the theatre of such ignominy’ (112). His sense of himself is shaken: `I who prided myself on being a sensible man, cold as crystal and as free from spurious depths’ (113). But when the drama has been acted out in that theatre, Moran will have accepted this ‘opposite of myself’ and will have acknowledged the existence in himself both of the depths he had considered spurious and of dark places that are nothing like so clear as crystal.


Molloy’s relation to his anima is, as one might expect, less clear. When he first conjures up her image he emphasizes the similarity of mother and son: ‘We were like a couple of old cronies,’ he says (17); and he sets out to see her because of ‘the craving for a fellow’ (15). But his attitude quickly alters, and we find that mother and son are not really alike. She has almost no mind left: his mind may be in ruins, but it is there, as we find out later, that he goes most willingly.


When we begin ‘Molloy’ we are given no sign that it is the story of Molloy’s search for his mother. Indeed, aside from a few puzzles—how did he get to her room? when did she die?—it seems a dismissable matter, and Molloy’s own interest is elsewhere. Even the report’s original beginning focuses on his observation of A and B/C. Molloy describes C in terms that link him to the Nouvelles (climbing the monument) and to himself (‘He looks old and it is a sorry sight to see him solitary after so many years’ [10]); he emphasizes the intensity of the meeting between A and C; he speaks of his own ‘soul’s leap out to’ C (11); and he imagines hurrying to catch up with A. Of course the details that characterize A and C and their meeting are all projected by Molloy, who claims no objective knowledge of these men. The narrative as a Jungian dream begins, then, with a vision of possible companionship between men—even men so different as A and C—a vision arising from Molloy’s loneliness. Molloy makes this quite clear: the scene was composed, he says, of ‘smoke, sticks, flesh, hair, at evening, afar flung about the craving for a fellow’ (15). It is at this point that he repeats the last phrase as the reason for his resolve ‘to go and see my mother.’


The transition seems clear enough, since he describes his mother and himself as ‘cronies’. But he adds immediately: ‘I needed, before I could resolve to go and see that woman, reasons of an urgent nature.’ Both as a characterization of himself and as a dream-indication of the theme’s seriousness, this is noteworthy. He needs plural reasons, and a second one is immediately offered him: ‘having waked between eleven o’clock and midday (t heard the angelus, recalling the incarnation, shortly after) I resolved to go and see my mother’ (15.). The shift from mother as crony to mother as incarnation is significant; we are moving from the social to the mythical level. As Jungian anima, a mother represents (inter alia) a literal incarnation, an idea made flesh. Among her many forms is that of the earth-mother (in both its fostering and forbidding senses) and it is this form of the archtetype that Molloy’s evocation of this mother emphasizes. Although she is pleased whenever he arrives she does not remember him, confusing him with her husband; although she is fostering (she gives him money) he beats it out of her. Her age, her smell, and her appearance emphasize her physicality, while her deafness, blindness, and continuous, semi-intelligible chatter evoke nature itself. What is more Molloy’s description of her follows hard upon a passage in which he speaks of his location as ‘this earthly paradise . . . this accursed country’, where ‘the sun is at its pitilessmost and the arctic radiance comes pissing on our midnights’ (16). This ambivalent but predominantly hostile attitude toward nature is immediately directed toward his mother, as when he explains that by calling her Mag he satisfied the ‘need to have a Ma, that is a mother’, while at the same time ‘the letter g abolished the syllable Ma, and as it were spat on it’ (17).


Incarnation bothers Molloy. ‘If ever I’m reduced to looking for a meaning to my life . . . it’s in that old mess I’ll stick my nose to begin with, the mess of that poor old uniparous whore and myself the last of my foul brood, neither man nor beast’ (19). It is significant that such distaste for the fleshly world should follow on from a passage in which Molloy has praised his inhuman bicycle at such length, and that Molloy should take words so seriously as to imagine that he can destroy the word Ma with the letter g. But words and ideas mean less, in a dream sequence, than the events and images of that sequence. And the most obvious difference between statement and event has already appeared. Molloy never says that he found his mother; but before he even sets out he has evoked her, has dreamed her, and in that sense she has been found already. (Likewise, Moran will find Molloy before even setting out.) The journey is not, then, a search for the mother but rather a development of what happens after finding her. The narrative embodies a complication of the anima figure and a record of Molloy’s reactions as he seeks to evade coming to terms with his mother, that first vision of the other side of his own self. The next stage of the journey is not confrontation but evasion, and its characteristics develop directly out of Molloy’s reaction to the maternal image.


Molloy has defended himself against his mother’s blur, dirt, and fleshliness with a magic word, Mag, and with an analysis of her; as he says later: ‘these are reasonings, based on analysis’ (64). In Beckett’s works this kind of general reasoning and these verbal abstractions are most often associated with government officials inhumanly, unemotionally, and rigidly implementing absurdly logical laws. It is this world that Molloy has evoked in defending himself from the vision of a quite different existence, and having created it he is immediately victimized by it. He enters the emblematic ramparts of a town and at once encounters rigidity and rules; he is arrested, as it were, for misusing his bicycle by acting humanly on it. No longer the judge but the victim of judgement, he reacts by imitating his mother and resorting to the vaguest and least rational kinds of behavior. It works, although he cannot understand the significance of his success. After his release and, in a dreamlike way, ‘before I knew I had left the town’ (26) he finds himself in a more natural world, by the canal. But this first encounter with the law has generated a fear of justice and punishment. And it is these abstractions which are quickly incarnated in two male figures of human and divine justice, the boatman and the shepherd. The first is old, pipe-smoking, and bearded, and he might be taken for an image of tranquil old age. But his eyes are hidden (never a good sign in Beckett’s fiction) and he spits in the water. More obviously, he is bringing to a carpenter a cargo of nails and timber (compare the Rosevean’s bricks for a world without end in Ulysses); and this obvious suggestion of crucifixion is reinforced by the brutality of the ‘angry cries and dull blows’ (26) directed at the donkeys who pull the barge.


The shepherd and his dog are watching Molloy when he wakes in the ditch the next morning. The colour of the sheep is not mentioned (Moran’s shepherd will lead shorn black sheep), but Molloy imagines the dog taking him for ‘a black sheep entangled in the brambles’ and adds; ‘I don’t smell like a sheep, I wish I smelt like a sheep, or a buck-goat’ (28). These images put him in triple jeopardy, as a black sheep, as the substitute for an Isaac that Abraham found similarly entangled, and as a goat among sheep. (The French text suggests yet a fourth hazard: Molloy’s term for ‘buck-goat’ is ‘bouc’, which implies ‘bouc émissaire’, a scapegoat.2) As these ominous implications surface, they alter the tone of the dream-scene. Having wished to smell like a sheep, Molloy now senses their subjugation -they even miss the dog nipping at their heels—and he asks the shepherd whether they are going to the fields or the shambles, only to realize that there are slaughter-houses everywhere. The image of the dog ‘bustling about the herd, which but for him would no doubt have fallen into the canal’, is ironic; saved they may be, but only for later slaughter. And the scene is rounded out, like the boatman’s, with casual inhumanity: the shepherd neither answers Molloy nor removes the dog’s ticks. It is no wonder that the passage should end with images of animals being slaughtered: legal authority has led to judgment, and judgment has led to anticipations of crucifixion and the shambles. In these two scenes the unconscious has presented a strong case against the rational, masculine world. It is obviously time to leave that world and to seek the anima. But as we later discover, the anima will only reappear when Molloy commits a crime, and then her mercy will overrule her justice.


Between these two visions Molloy offers us another version of his reason for seeking his mother. He imagines being dead and then realizes that ‘there is no denying it, any longer, it is not you who are dead, but all the others. So you get up and go to your mother, who thinks she is alive’ (27). Here is another form of Arsene’s shifting pile of sand; the world dies and to revivify it one seeks—it is ‘a mere matter of magic’- the mother who is the source of life. But even after his vision of the shepherd Molloy stalls for a while, speaking of his preference for gloom and calculating his farts. This habit of escaping into the abstractions and reasonings of mathematics will remain with him. But he is beginning to change: the man who found Mag such a powerful word now speaks of a state of existence in which ‘there could be no things but nameless things, no names but thingless names’ (31). Yet he is still unable to accept the possibility of significant change: ‘The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle’ (32). His continuing reluctance results in yet another frightening vision of the rational, law-making world (where once again the bicycle gets him into trouble). But here a second anima figure, Sophie Loy or Lousse, comes to the rescue. Like his mother she will treat him well in spite of his behaviour. She even begins by saving him from a fourth vision of justice, since the policeman, the boatman, and the shepherd are now supplemented by ‘a bloodthirsty mob of both sexes and all ages, for I caught a glimpse of white beards and little almost angelfaces’ (32). At the same time the bullied donkeys and sheep and the tick-ridden dog are joined by another victim as Lousse’s dog is killed by Molloy and his rigid mechanical bicycle. But this time a kind of mercy saves the criminal, so it is no wonder that Molloy discards the name Loy (law) in favor of Lousse; and no wonder, though Molloy ignores it, that she is named Wisdom. The Sophia image is as central a Jungian archetype of the anima as the earth-mother, and one would expect her to be more acceptable to the verbal and rational Molloy. But he will not accept Sophie either. As a result, the wisdom that she speaks is distorted into cliché-ridden glibness at the beginning of this long dream-episode and is later abbreviated or suppressed whenever possible as Molloy’s ego turns more strongly against her.


Earlier, Molloy used words (Mag) and ideas (the number code for raps on the head) to detach himself from the mother figure. Now Sophie’s words and ideas force him to retreat into the collapsing remains of his rational mind. Troubled by the moon’s inconstancy he makes a comment that Jung would have appreciated: ‘How difficult it is to speak of the moon and not lose one’s head, the witless moon’ (39). Attempting to keep his head, he immediately abstracts and generalizes that specific, troubling moon shining in his window: ‘Yes, I once took an interest in astronomy’. There follows a capsule history of his education, covering astronomy, geology, anthropology, psychiatry, and magic. If the scope and disappointment reminds us of Faust (one of the trilogy’s archetypal figures), we should notice also that the sequence is significant. Molloy begins by looking at the material heavens and then turns to the material earth. Focussing more closely, he studies man historically, physically, and socially; more closely still, and he moves inward to the psyche, which leads him to magic. It was at this point that he abandoned his studies. And now the dream is dragging him again through the same subjects toward the same conclusion, which he is still resisting.


But he cannot wander long in a mind devoid of anima figures; incomplete, it is ‘a world at an end’ and ‘I too am at an end’. What is more, there is a ‘far whisper’ that frightens him. He feels he must leave, which is why his thoughts return to the moon and to C’s launching forth on unknown ways, leading south’, and to his original decision: ‘perhaps I should go to mother tomorrow’. Now he can accept the moon: ‘I vanish happy in that alien light, which must once have been mine, I am willing to believe it, then the anguish of return, I won’t say where, I can’t, to absence perhaps’ (39-42). Clearly the need to construct a new Self is pressing on him as his old Self wastes away.


So he begins once again to move toward his mother: he demands his clothes, he fusses, and he alters his presentation of Lousse. Picking up as clues her dog and parrot, he begins to imply something about this woman who seems to collect men {he sees only men on her property) and who offers food and drink, attractive earthly surroundings, and servants who labour ‘to preserve the garden from apparent change’ (52). Muddling some memories of the Odyssey, he begins to imply that Lousse is an enclosing but sexless Calypso and a Circe who enslaves men by making them mere incarnations, mere animals. This considerably distorts the woman originally named Sophie Loy, who wants only to look at and talk to Molloy. And his present insinuations carry their own denial, most obviously when he accuses her of poisoning him sweetly with ‘the miserable molys of Lousse’ (54) when of course it was Odysseus who used Hermes’ magic moly to protect himself from Circe.


The truth is that Molloy’s retreat from justice on the one hand and his earth-mother on the other has been all too successful. As he will say when resting after the flight from Lousse; ‘I was in peace for as long as I could endure peace’(61). (This is a perception he develops later when he remarks that ‘unfortunately there are other needs than that of rotting in peace’ [76j). Since the aim of this whole dream sequence is the necessary alteration and expansion of his Self, peace can be no more than rot, and his profiting from Mag and Sophie without coming to terms with them must have an end. Yet Molloy’s stay with Lousse, including all the digressions prompted by it, covers roughly one-third of ‘Molloy’; it is a significant event.


It may not seem so in the reading, and to call it significant may be to evoke the memorable Holmes-Lestrade exchange: ‘I call your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night.’ ‘But Holmes, the dog did nothing in the night!’ ‘That was the curious incident.’ Molloy’s stay chez Lousse begins with the burial of the dog and with his odd remark: ‘I contributed my presence. As if it had been my own burial. And it was’ (36). The next morning he finds himself washed, shaved, and dressed in a flimsy nightgown; he notices a chamberpot. After he throws a tantrum and gets his clothes, he spends most of his time in the unchanging garden, where he often jumps and falls. He is fed and cared for by Lousse and her servants. It is all a sad parody of chidhood, right down to his being bottle-fed, and it is similarly amoral: Molloy tells us that ‘not knowing exactly what I was doing or avoiding, I did it and avoided it’, and only later does he go over his acts and’drag them into the eudaemonistic slop’ (55). Anxious to evoke this childish world, he insists that there was no physical intimacy between him and Lousse. And this repression generates another archetypal anima figure (Ruth/Edith), who moves him out of his dead calm.


As we have learned to expect, whenever Molloy’s ego is obliged to acknowledge a woman and the possibility of a relationship, it is immediately concerned to denigrate the woman and to keep itself at a distance. The mother is reduced to an unpleasant but harmless physicality; the Sophia figure has her wisdom reduced to banalities and her succour so defined that neither payment nor gratitude is necessary (in fact Molloy will steal from her). Ruth/Edith is now treated similarly. Her identity is blurred—Ruth or Edith? Since she is an image of love, she is reduced to sexuality, and then her sexuality is made comic and her femininity put in doubt. In place of any emotional relationship between her and himself Molloy introduced an abstract verbal notion of love, and then imagines himself seeking to experience that abstraction in the physical world, whether with man or woman or goat. This is odd talk from someone whose journey began with the craving for a fellow. His narrative places idealistic terms—true love, idyll, tenderness—in contexts that ridicule them (‘But is it true love, in the rectum?’ [57]), while his pose of ignorance and innocence saves him from the charge of cynicism. But if he is innocent of sexual knowledge he is also empty of affection, here as in his other encounters.


That a reader must juxtapose all three of the encounters with women, understanding them as variants of that complete encounter with the anima that his psyche demands, is made clear by Molloy himself. And the way he does this suggests his awareness that affection is at issue. After concluding his vision of Ruth by explaining that after her death he settled for ‘the alleged joys of so-called self-abuse’ (54), he returns to the question of whether Lousse and Ruth were women, and returns also to his mother. Before discussing Ruth he speaks of his mother only to avoid her: ‘If you don’t mind we’ll leave my mother out of all this. But another who might have been my mother . . .’(56), and he begins to describe Ruth. Finally he brings all three women together: ‘And there are days . . . when my memory confuses them [Sophie and Ruth] and I am tempted to think of them as one and the same old hag, flattened and crazed by life. And God forgive me, to tell you the horrible truth, my mother’s image sometimes mingles with theirs, which is literally unendurable, like being crucified. I don’t know why and I don’t want to’ (59). Once again he is avoiding the subject.


Given that his refusal of these women revealed him as completely lacking in affection, we may expect in his next backsliding what in fact we get: a world increasingly divested of any humans at all (with one important male exception) and given over to abstractions and inanimate forms. Like the previous sequence, this one moves Molloy from the town, still strange to him, into the country. But this time there are no authority figures; as he leaves he encounters only indifference and rejection, and he evades his problems through speculations on the knife-rest and the irrational number pi. But of course his psyche still pursues him, and it will conjure up two final versions of his polymorphous anima.


Appropriately the final images are inhuman, though still out of the standard repertoire of Jungian archetypes. The first is the sea, la mère mer, and Molloy manages some sort of contact with it. It is brief; he sets his narrative of it in the past and turns quickly to mathematics again, moving from the wet and changing sea to the dry sucking-stones of calculus. But before he does so he tells a story out of the Nouvelles about setting out to sea in an oarless skiff. He says nothing unpleasant about the sea and does not defend himself against it. One must therefore conclude that this sea, with its ‘reefs and distant islands, and its hidden depths’ (69), embodies the only form of his anima that he can acknowledge at all.


Not that the encounter is psychologically adequate. Indeed, it is less an encounter than a surrender. He imagines setting out on the sea in a vulnerable fashion, and he cannot imagine returning. But then he counters this impulse toward the anima with his characteristically evasive reasonings—the near-interminable matter of the sucking stones and the dully practical details about his native town and his decaying body. These give him the assurance to announce that this time at least the sea has not been able to engage him (although the setting-out in the boat took place in the dream-time of the narration, that is, only moments earlier; it was a recent escape). And as if to prove his ability to resist he offers us a variation on the Odyssey’s Nausicaa scene, in which he rejects a young woman who offers him food. In the end, then, he forces us to recognize that he has continued to evade all connection with his anima.


In place of a thorough-going change of Self Molloy accepts only an endless decay, describing his progress toward his mother as ‘a veritable calvary, with no limit to its stations and no hope of crucifixion’ (78). A calvary with no end suggests the eternal suffering of hell, and his psyche now elaborates this idea as he heads toward the town. In the forest as in hell ‘it is forbidden to give up and even to stop an instant’ (81). Indeed

Molloy possesses the curious kind of knowledge that Dante attributes to the damned: ‘I knew only in advance, for when the time came I knew no longer, . . . and when the time was past I no longer knew either’ (82).


Situations in ‘Molloy’ as in dreams tend to alter quickly, and this incident is protean. At its beginning Molloy’s town is no longer near the sea, ‘whatever may have been said to the contrary’ (76; curiously, it is Moran who locates Bally on the sea, 134). Instead he creates a vast, polluting swamp between sea and town. But he never encounters that swamInstead he goes from ‘a road conveniently cambered’ (78) to ‘the darkness of these towering forests, these giant fronds’ (78). Later there are paths and a crossroad in the forest, and berries, mushrooms, and carobs grow there. Conditions seem to be improving, and the allusions are now to the Purgatorio rather than to the Inferno. But they are ironic. Setting out to see his mother after seeing A and C, Molloy spoke of leaving ‘this earthly paradise . . . sheltered from certain winds and exposed to all that Auster vents, in the way of scents and languors’ (16). Now, returning to that paradise, he finds it sadly changed. No longer on a mountaintop, as in the Purgatorio, or ‘suspended between the mountains and the sea’ (16), as when he set out, it is now at sea level. When he listens for the forest murmurs to which Matilda directs Dante’s attention (canto XXVIII) he hears only a gong, and the trees of gold that become candlesticks in the next canto are here only bronze, rigid in the absence of any breeze. And of course the season is winter, and Molloy in this paradise is ‘crawling on his belly, like a reptile’ (90).


These allusions should not be separated from their dream-context. Molloy’s industrious unconscious is leading his ego to yet another confrontation with the anima in yet another central Jungian archetypal form: the swamp-forest, an apparently chaotic labyrinth actually focused on a womb-like centre into which Molloy will stumble several times. And that event, that arrival at the centre only to pass it by, will actuate sudden violence on his part.


He comes upon ‘a kind of crossroads’ (83). This is the centre of the labyrinth, and it constitutes a mandala, an image much prized by Jung for its evocation of psychic wholeness. No wonder, then, that Molloy should find tenderness in the repeated possibilities of his encounter with it, and savagery in his repeated failure. Beckett’s French text describes this central location as ‘une sorte de carréfour, une étoile’ (127), terms that combine the circle and the four-sided square of wholeness in Jung’s imagery. In the English, Beckett adds another term: ‘a kind of crossroads, you know, a star, or circus.’ Here ‘crossroads’ ambiguously evokes not only a four-part figure but the ‘veritable calvary’, while the Dantesque paradisal implications of the three terms together probably explains why, in a few sentences, Ruth/Edith’s name is misremembered as Rose.


But Molloy merely circles that starry centre and leaves, as Mahood will do more violently. Molloy’s own violence flares up a moment later. He moves from wholeness toward the worse side of his nature. The psyche illustrates this by conjuring up a pathetic, lonely version of Molloy whom he knocks cold with his crutch. Despite the violence, this is yet another act in which reason opposes emotion: the incoherent and friendly man who wants Molloy to stay in his hut—a faint echo of the mother offering a faint version of centrality and relatedness—is opposed by the calculating Molloy ego with deliberate and symmetrical kicks.


That calculation is a simple one, of course, as compared with the sucking-stone problem. Molloy’s mind is still decaying, and he abandons his earlier Cartesian trust in reason (65; cf. Discourse on the method, III) in favour of circumventing his mind’s weakness. As Molloy puts it, ‘I stopped being half-witted and became sly’ (85). And as he works his way through the forest, and perhaps because he has conceded to his unconscious the inadequacy of reason, the psyche brings its strongest force into play—a voice within the mind, the verbalization of what has been dramatized. Such voices are common in Beckett’s works, but this is different from most; a single anonymous voice, once merely a ‘far whisper’, (40) now speaks loudly about Molloy’s duty. Jung has much to say about such voices:


            The voice . . . always pronounces an authoritative declaration or

            command, either of astonishing common sense and truth, or of

            profound philosophic allusion. [Jung probably meant ‘import’.] It is

            nearly always a definite statement, usually coming toward the end of

            a dream, and it is, as a rule, so clear and convincing that the dreamer

            finds no argument against it. It has, indeed, so much the character of

            indisputable truth that it often appears as the final and absolutely

            valid summing up of a long unconscious deliberation and weighing of


Thanks to this voice Molloy is able to speak of these imperatives in the plural and in the past. This plurality has no great retrospective force—in a dream, only what explicitly happens can count—but it reinforces the importance of this present voice. Typically Molloy tries to weaken its importance by suggesting that the imperatives really implied ‘Don’t do it, Molloy’ (87). But he acknowledges also that the voice ‘did no more than stress, the better to mock if you like, an innate velleity. And of myself, all my life, I think I had been going to my mother’ (87). Jung approves of and clarifies Molloy’s identification of the voice with his velleity: ‘There is only one condition under which you might legitimately call the voice your own, namely, when you assume your conscious personality to be a part of a who!e or to be a small circle contained in a bigger one’ (ibid., 47).


The fact that Molloy’s psyche has been able to get through so clearly to his ego increases his conscious understanding of himself. Not only does he recognize that the voice expresses his own will, but he achieves a retrospective sense of the meaning of his travels and the importance of his repeated visits to the centre of the labyrinth:


            all my life, I think I had been going to my mother, with the purpose of

            establishing our relations on a less precarious footing. And when I

was with her, and I often succeeded, I left her without having done

            anything. And when I was no longer with her I was again on my way

            to her, hoping to do better next time (87).


No wonder he interrupts himself to remark that ‘this is taking a queer turn’; his level of awareness is rising rapidly. Now he can expand his subject and recognize the internal nature, the psychic nature, of the whole narrative. He realizes that none of the events actually occurred: ‘Simply somewhere something had changed, so that I too had to change, or the world had to change . . . And it was these little adjustments, as between Galileo’s vessels, that I can only express by saying, I feared that, or, I hoped that, or Is that your mother’s name? said the sergeant . . .’ (88). In short, faced with the author’s and the dreamer’s problem of using a language turned toward the exterior world and finding characters and settings in that world, Molloy has been ‘merely complying with the convention that demands you either lie or hold your peace’ (88).


At this point the dream and the unconscious have become as nearly rational and explicit as their nonverbal essence permits. Their language is still that of images—it is still a question of finding mother—but Molloy now knows that the search is part of the meaning of his life (cf 19) and that it is involved with his irresoluteness and his slowly crumbling identity. There is little left for the dream to do, except to complete its judgment upon the dreamer. In the ditch at the end he experiences a quick sketch of the whole dream, ending with an image of spring, a last desire to flee, and a sudden detachment from his used-up self: ‘Molloy could stay, where he happened to be’ (91).


It is tempting to finish off our judgment with equal haste, but we know too little. ‘No dream symbol can be separated from the individual who dreams it’, Jung warns; motifs ‘must be considered in the context of the dream itself, not as self-explanatory ciphers’.4 We have to complete the dream-context by considering part two, which is haunted by Molloy and constructed with an eye toward part one. Our study will then enable us to agree wholeheartedly with the narrator of ‘The calmative’ that ‘a dream is nothing, a joke, and significant what is worse’.5


The feminine sense of life includes for Jung the idea of relatedness, connection with other humans in social and emotional bonds. The masculine sense includes the idea that life is a challenge and that the individual is alone, competing and seeking to dominate. When we first meet him Moran inhabits a world of pseudo-relations, creating for himself a society composed of inferiors and superiors. His work puts him in a middle position, subordinated to the Obidil, Youdi, and even Gaber, but superior to his hapless prey, the ‘quarry’ in whose ‘ludicrous distress’ he finds peace (110). Yet he must imitate that situation himself, apparently. He says that ‘to call forth feelings of pity and indulgence, to be the butt of jeers and hilarity, is indispensable’ (p.124), and his work clothes suggest a kind of music-hall clownishness. One can only guess at his work, in which ‘establishing contact was the least important part’ and which once obliged him to destroy Yerk’s tiepin (136). The occupation is thinly Chestertonian, and one suspects that Beckett was not much interested in it. We know from the names that the organization’s function is at once metaphysical and psychological. Moran singles out a designated individual and somehow completes his individualization, and thus his psychic and spiritual detachment from the mass of society with which he has hitherto merged. ‘His life has been nothing but a waiting for this’, Moran says, ‘to see himself preferred, to fancy himself damned, blessed, to fancy himself everyman, above all others’ (p.111). Moran claims to have derived a similar sense of non-social self-awareness from the ‘warmth, gloom, smells of my bed’ (111).


This is presumably meant to explain why Moran must be an object of pity, jeers, and hilarity. Part of the reaction to mockery is an increased awareness, for victim and sympathetic observer alike, of one’s private, introverted, spiritual and non-social nature. Whether feeling damned or blessed, one may then very well experience that paradoxical sense of oneself as ‘everyman, above all others.’ This goes some way towards explaining the theft of Yerk’s tiepin; its loss would oblige Yerk to experience social impropriety. Yerk had previously endured the company of a grotesquely dressed Moran for several months; in losing his tiepin he might be victimized into self-awareness.


But Moran’s evocation of this pity and hilarity has been merely professional. He has shared the sense of isolation only in the mildest way, in bed, and has coped with it easily: ‘I get up, go out, and . . . I drown in the spray of phenomena . . . It is thanks to them I find myself a meaning’ (111). When we first meet him he is comfortably lodged in that world of phenomena, a kitten-chasing-its-tail world of ‘coming and going’, ‘flight and pursuit’ (93). But the dream no sooner sets Moran in his wicker chair, in his garden, with his son and his town, than Gaber appears to make a mockery of that possessive material security. (Compare the mocking laughter heard by Clamence in Camus’ La chute.) Gaber has barely left when Moran recognizes that ‘the colour and weight of the world were changing already, soon I would have to admit that I was anxious’ (96). To borrow Molloy’s image of Galileo’s vessels, material from the unconscious is pouring into the conscious mind, unbalancing it. Moran demonstrates this in his fretfulness with Martha and his son and in his amusing reaction to the church door: ‘baroque, very fine. I found it hideous’ (99). The old values can no longer obtain, and his holy communion will be equally unsatisfactory. If Molloy was obliged to seek communion, Moran must do without it.


In the event there are any number of comparisons and contrasts between Molloy and Moran. One might add to the lists compiled already Molloy’s mother’s head (‘that little grey wizened pear’ [19]) and Martha’s wizened, grey skull’ (97), and also Moran’s ‘velomoteur’ set against Molloy’s ‘chère bicyclette, je ne t’appellerai pas vélo’ (21). But it is the contrastive episodes that are most important and none more so than Moran’s encounter with the shepherd as he and his son travel toward Bally. We saw in part one that a fearful sense of religion and law as blindly crucifying led first to the boatman in the canal and then to the shepherd. Molloy, it will be remembered, focuses on the sheeMoran, by contrast, likes the shepherd, who is patting his dog when first seen. The shepherd’s flock is black but cared for nonetheless: ‘His dog loved him, his sheep did not fear him,’ Moran says. And he imagines the sheep taking him for a butcher, upon which the protective shepherd leads them away toward their fold. Moran longs to say; ‘Take me with you. I will serve you faithfully, just for a place to lie and a little food’ (sensibly identifying himself not with the sheep, like Molloy, but with the dog). But then he realizes that in fact he is alone in the world; and in token of that realization and ‘in perfect order, the shepherd silent and the dog unneeded, the little flock departed’ (160). Whereas Molloy’s version of the vision ended warningly with images of butchered animals, Moran’s ends sentimentally with a mere twinge of doubt: he imagines the dog, at the end of a day of service, hesitating at the shepherd’s door, not knowing whether he will be allowed into the cottage.


Both of these sequences are in essence temptation scenes. Unwilling to encounter his anima, Molloy imagines instead a protective old man and a watchful dog. Obliged to seek a father image, Moran wistfully conjures up a conventionalized and prettified version. In both cases the psyche rejects the temptation. But before Moran can see the shepherd he must experience many changes of world and mind.


Molloy’s isolation was unsettled by his vision of A and C and his concomitant yearning for a fellow. Moran’s complacency among his fellows is unsettled not by emotion but obligation, as Gaber instigates in Moran the experience which Moran has been forcing his own victims into. Moran has been getting by on his ego’s public version of itself, the persona, which conforms to the demands of society. For the ego to identify itself with this mask, as Moran’s has done, it must deny and repress its improper and socially unacceptable qualities. As Moran blandly comments after savagely beating his son, ‘Oh it is not without scathe that one is gentle, courteous, reasonable, patient, day after day, year after year’ (127). In order to overcome the stagnation of his life and the repression of his darker qualities Moran must face his complex paternal Shadow. ‘The father acts as a protection against the dangers of the external world and thus serves his son as a model persona’, Jung explains,6 and we see Moran casting Father Ambrose, the shepherd, and sometimes himself in this role. But the father has a darker, Kafkaesque side too, as seen by the son: ‘The paradox lies in the fact that . . . the father apparently lives a life of unbridled instinct and yet is the living embodiment of the law that thwarts instinct’7 So to Jacques, Jr., Moran is at once the raging child-beater and the source of endless rules like Goethe’s sollst entbehren (110).


We need not dwell, although he himself does, on Moran’s activities before he leaves home. If the extent of his own dwelling on them indicates his powerful reluctance to abandon his social identity, his complaints equally indicate the attacks of his unconscious, reducing his former easy comings and goings to nervous fretfulness: ‘I could not keep still’; ‘shilly-shally’ (104 f.): ‘I did nothing but go to and fro’ (98, 108). Unable to organize his thoughts either in his house or in his garden, he decides that ‘the whole of my little property was to blame’ (123). And of course he is right; he is bound by these material possessions to the remains of his old persona, as the dream is telling him.


Moran is more often right, or nearly right, than is Molloy, especially after he frees himself from his social ties; and he is disposed to analyze his situation rather than to escape into sucking-stone irrelevance. So, for instance, when he decides to take his autocycle (and why doesn’t he?) he exclaims, ‘Thus was inscribed, on the threshold of the Molloy affair, the fatal pleasure principle’ (99). Moran will allude to Freudian ideas again; in fact one of his problems may be that he is a Freudian caught in a Jungian situation. But he is a more sophisticated dreamer than Molloy, perhaps because he has so long identified himself with his persona that the playing of roles is his natural state. Brooding about the trouble his son gives him, he says that had ‘other parts to play . . . than those of keeper and sick-nurse’ (129); earlier, he tucks his son into bed and then ‘I tiptoed out. I quite enjoyed playing my parts through to the bitter end’ (122). Later, starving in his Ballyba shelter, he is ‘enchanted with my performance’ (163). We will hear more of this.


Once Moran has left his home, he gets his dream under way with expedition and a self-assurance foreign to Molloy. Announcing that he has no intention of telling what happened before he and his son came to the Molloy country and that he will make his report in his own way (131), he discusses his present state at some length and with considerable self-awareness. This discussion—to which I shall return—is in fact so knowledgeable that for a moment the fictional or mythical level of the narrative is jeopardized. The dream, or perhaps simply Beckett, faces a problem: Moran the narrator knows at once less than he should by the time of writing (he wonders if he might one day be banished from his house and therefore be no more a man) and more than he should if the narrative is to continue. We have seen that Molloy’s sudden increase of awareness (connected, like Moran’s, with hearing a voice) has led to the dream’s being suddenly revealed as a mental event and then rapidly finished off, In Moran’s case it is enabled to continue by a complex literary and psychological convention:


            it is one of the features of this penance that I may not pass over what

            is over and straightway come to the heart of the matter. But that

            must again be unknown to me which is no longer so and that again

            fondly believed which I then fondly believed, at my setting out



I have no space here to discuss this Dantean convention. But even more important are Moran’s two interpretations of the Sisyphus myth: one involves hope, which he condemns as ‘hellish hope’ (133); the other evokes ironically Freud’s Beyond the pleasure principle -’Whereas to see yourself doing the same thing endlessly over and over again fills you with satisfaction’. (Freud says that repetition is the beginning of death; Moran is also swiping at Camus.) Of course neither interpretation is positive; Moran in narrating his dream is also dreaming back again, in the original gloom.


Moran follows this meditation on hellish hope with an orderly description of his goal, Bally, and the surrounding countryside, thereby marking a shift in the dream. Earlier he woke his son and left on the journey ‘without knowing where he was going, having consulted neither map nor timetable’ (124); now he is not only knowledgeable but asserts that ‘that then is a part of what I thought I knew about Ballyba when I left home’ (135). The leaving is itself meaningful. They depart, as from Roussillon, on a road that dips below a graveyard, so that ‘soon you are faring beneath the dead’. And some of the dead return for a while to haunt Moran—Yerk, the ‘nice youth, rather sad and silent’, Murphy, Watt, Mercier, ‘and all the others’ (136). But precedent is no help, and Moran must fare forward unaided.


The dream then develops a long scene made up of several disparate events: one leg stiffens, Jacques, Jr. is sent to buy a bicycle, and a stranger appears. The events make up a psychological series. The collapsing body embodies the changing self, for Moran as for Molloy (and later Malone). Moran’s leg is affected because he has been living in a world of coming and going and is now being urged toward that static ‘silence of which the universe is made’ (121). Regressing, he tries at first to treat the collapse as an ordinary matter. ‘I was about to conclude as usual that it was just another bad dream’, he says; apparently he has had many. Then he feels a ‘fulgurating pain’. ‘I waited anxiously for it to recur, motionless and hardly breathing, and of course sweating. I acted in a word precisely as one does. . . at such a juncture’ (138). Normalizing the event, Moran forgets that this is not what one does at such a juncture according to his own earlier formulation: ‘So he whom a sudden pain awakes. He stiffens, ceases to breathe, waits, says, It’s a bad dream, or It’s a touch of neuralgia, breathes again, sleeps again, still trembling’ (111). The difference between these two utterances, since he will soon think again of neuralgia, lies in his increased anxiety, aroused in him first by Gaber’s visit and recurrently intensified since.


In the morning Moran resorts briefly to evasion. Lying down is delightful, he decides; he can ‘take refuge in the horizontal, like a child in its mother’s lap’ (140). He develops this fancy into an extended paralysis sparing only consciousness. ‘And to dread death like a regeneration,’ he adds, with obvious relevance. But regeneration is what he needs, and at this point he properly begins to face up to his situation. The sense of responsibility displayed here, and the capacity for action, separate him still further from Molloy, whose passivity affects even his thinking: ‘I began to think,’ Molloy says, finding himself in a literal impasse, ‘that is to say to listen harder’ (61).


Moran’s active thinking and active participation in the invention of his dream are curiously signalled at this point. The movement from his story of the stiffened leg to the next event is treated not so much as a sequence of acts but rather as a problem in imaginative writing: ‘I considered the problem . . . I shall not expound my reasoning . . . Its conclusion made possible the composition of the following passage (140). In other words, the dream is enabled to continue because Moran has contrived a dream-event that will represent the acceptance of his changing state. This is even more remarkable than the dream’s previous rescue by means of the convention ‘it is one of the features of this penance . . .,’ imposed from outside Moran.


It is to be noted that Moran persists with the contrived dream-event with some reluctance. He imagines sending his son to town for a bicycle and even throwing a stone at him to make him leave. But he also resorts to wish-fulfillment (he imagines running) and sentimentalizes about being a loving father and buying young Jacques the best of bikes. In short, he realizes the difficulties of solitude and a crippled state. But then he inspires himself, or his unconscious inspires him, with a Molloy-like father image. Much more suggestive of the psychic world than Father Ambrose and much milder than the raging Molloy figure first imagined, this one is recycled from the C of Molloy’s dream and the drug-dealer of ‘The calmative.’ Beckett’s English modifies his French to connect this figure more closely with C: C ‘went with uncertain step’ (9) and this man ‘walked with swift uncertain step’ (146). Moran gives him bread saved for his son and wishes his own face were like the man’s. The next day he tries to cut himself a stick in imitation of C’s club (the French uses baton for both), but he must make do with his umbrella.


Now, having accepted a considerable change from his first state, Moran regresses again, but rather impressively. He emphasizes his relation to his shelter. No longer is he ‘circling about the shelter’; instead, ‘I radiated from it in every direction’. The shelter, ‘which I was beginning to think of as my little house’, so attracts him ‘that to cut across from the terminus of one sally to the terminus of the next, and so on, . . . was out of the question. But each time I had to retrace my steps, the way I had come, to the shelter . . .’ (148).


Here again we must juxtapose two versions of a situation in order to see the quite different implications of each. Moran has found in his wasteland what Molloy found in the forest: the centre of a mandala. Moran ‘radiated’ from it (148); Molloy’s had paths ‘radiating’ from it (83). Molloy ‘described a complete circle, or less . . . or more than a circle’ around the centre and then ‘made haste to leave it’. Moran stops circling the shelter and returns to it often. But if Molloy was wrong to leave his maternal mandala, Moran is wrong to depend so much upon it. Circumstances alter cases. His weakness for the shelter is regressive; he calls it ‘my little house’ and returns to his old habits: ‘I consumed the greater part of this second day in these vain comings and goings.’


But his retreat to the shelter is not totally regressive, or perhaps one should say that it is not unprofitably regressive. A mandala, as Jung reminds us, incites and directs meditation, and it is meditation that gives rise to the next series of dream events. When Moran stops those vain comings and goings he lies down at the mandala’s centre ‘to ruminate in peace on certain things’. His meditations begin with the material world and specifically with his food supply (whence ‘ruminate’). At this point he thinks briefly of Molloy. But from external topics he moves quickly inward to his self, and his self is expressed in a series of visions that represent the meaning of his journey. Among other things he envisions ‘a crumbling, a frenzied collapsing of all that had always protected me from all I was always condemned to be. Or it was like a kind of clawing toward a light and a countenance I could not name, that I had once known and long denied’ (148). This constitutes a clear imagistic summary of the narrative so far: the material crumbling, the admission that his future 'countenance' is not known to him although repressed, and the ambiguous attitude toward change in ‘condemned’ set against ‘light’ (jour in the French).


The several sequential visions, which I shall discuss later, achieve a summing-up in the last, where the light and countenance become a pale globe ascending through water to show Moran a calm face rising toward the light. This image derives from Moran’s earlier study of his trembling reflection in the stream, with the stranger’s pale and noble face now superimposed upon it, but also from a more positive reconstruction of the present visions of clawing toward the light and the grinding of bulk into water.


At this point in the Moran dream its meanings are still expressed imagistically. But they have been presented in so many images—especially in this particular series—that the dream itself seems to stand revealed as simply another way of saying the same thing, a way of speaking that the psyche can now discard. The truth is that the visions are so clear that Beckett is forced to let Moran react explicitly to them. ‘But I confess’, Moran remarks, `I attended but absently to these poor figures, in which I suppose my sense of disaster sought to contain itself’. Recognizing his ‘growing resignation to being dispossessed of self’, Moran admits that ‘doubtless I should have gone from discovery to discovery concerning myself, if I had persisted. But at the first faint light . . . I fled to other cares.And all had been for nothing’ (149).


This evasion has the air of a person-from-Porlock device if we take Moran to be writing a real report, even if we accept the convention that ‘I am far more he who finds than he who tells what he has found’. But if we consider part two as a dream, of which Moran’s awkward evasion here is as much a part as are the preceding visions, then the confession is recognizably a variant form of the regressive evasions that have so often occurred when the unconscious comes painfully close to the surface. Yet Moran is at this point evading only the self’s future identity, not his need to be dispossessed of self. That acquiescence is vividly dramatized in the next event, where Moran encounters a stranger acting out a parody of Moran’s journey. This figure is seeking the Molloy-like first stranger in the form of a caricature of the old, external Moran. (Moran is now wearing knee-breeches, the stranger ‘a thick navy-blue suit’ [150]. But both wear heavy black shoes, and when Moran first put on those shoes he remarked that they ‘seemed to implore a pair of navy-blue serge trousers’ [124].) Having established the resemblance and his dislike for the stranger, Moran destroys him.


‘He no longer resembled me,’ Moran remarks, perhaps because his head is in a pulp; but by punishing his past self in the person of this stranger Moran himself has completed a change. His knee can bend, for a time; he checks over his missing articles ‘without relying on my intelligence alone’ (152), abandoning some keys and rolling to find others (as Molloy imagines rolling to his mother and as Macmann will roll); and he ‘jammed the straw-hat down on my skull’ as Molloy had banged his down (The French uses the same verb, enfoncer, for both actions: p138, 237).


But the old ego dies hard and the dream now labours through a series of regressive events with occasional signs of change. The signs of change include Moran’s weakened intellect (the questions and partial answers); his pleasure, echoing Molloy’s, in the bicycle; and his body’s next collapse. The regressions include his son’s return which results in Moran’s complete dependence upon him: ‘I would not have got there without my son . . . He took good care of me, I must say’ (158). This sequence roughly parallels Molloy’s stay with Lousse in its stress on dependence, a dependence which Moran emphasizes not only by dreaming his son’s care but also by evoking at this point the sentimentalized good shepherd that we have already analyzed. As we saw, the desire for an idealized father to replace the caring but suspected son is undercut not only by the image’s superficiality but also by the Unconscious successfully making Moran admit that ‘I knew I was all alone . . . And I did not like the feeling of being alone, with my son perhaps, no, alone, spellbound’ (159).


This recognition dismisses the shepherd, and the paternal son follows. ‘That night I had a violent scene with my son,’ Moran says (160), and in the morning he finds himself alone. Just as he previously explained that he composed a scene as the result of concluding a train of thought, so now he pauses in describing his abandoned state to remark that ‘in order to make all this sound more likely I shall add what follows’ (160). At moments like this one is tempted to evoke Lewis Carroll and speak of a dream that one dreams one is dreaming.


The pattern of the book has led us to expect that such an advance on the part of Moran’s psyche will be countered by an evasion toward hopes of a kindly father figure or a regression towards his old social world. Both forms now occur. Moran eats all his food instead of practising the self-sufficiency that was the hallmark of his previous solitude. He dallies with ‘childish hopes’ reminiscent of the `hellish hope’ of his brief second childhood under his son’s care. He hopes that ‘my son, his anger spent, would have pity on me and come back to me! Or that Molloy . . . would come to me . . . and grow to be a friend, and like a father to me, and help me to do what I had to do. . .’ (161). Since we know how Moran treated his son when he last returned, and since we know enough about Moran’s profession to suspect that whatever he ‘had to do’ would give pain, we must conclude that Moran is lapsing here into a quite unpleasant egocentricity. Which is why we must welcome his psyche’s purgative response to all this. Surveying these hopes, Moran says that he let them tempt him, ‘and then I swept them away, with a great disgusted sweep of all my being, I swept myself clean of them and surveyed with satisfaction the void they had polluted’ (162). This houseclearing—achieved, it should be noted, without the need of a projected event or vision—rewards Moran with new images of the psychic process in which he is caught up.


‘As for myself,’ he says, ‘. . . it was far now from my thoughts’ (162). But not from his imagination, which is what produces his sense that ‘I seemed to be drawing towards it as the sand towards the wave, when it crests and whitens’. This image he supplements with that of ‘the turd waiting for the flush’. Between them, these images evoke his present situation: the sand or excrement of his present dry or excreted self is waiting for water. The image of flushing harks back to his vision, after the visit from C, of a ‘sensation at first all darkness and bulk, with a noise like the grinding of stones, then suddenly as soft as water flowing’ (148). This recalls Moran’s pre-dinner brooding the day before he set out: ‘Unfathomable mind, now beacon, now sea’ (106). But the present version resolves the duality of dark water and light beacon into a whitening wave. By identifying Moran’s present self with the dry sand, it also suggests the possibility of a wave that might inundate and disperse that sand. And at this point a third vision combines the previous two: ‘a fly, flying low above my ash-tray, raised a little dust, with the breath of its wings’. This incorporates both the dust and ashes of his dead self and the breath and flight of a self to come, almost as if it has in fact risen from those ashes.


Moran has abandoned hope, but he still faces, as when his leg first stiffened, the temptation merely to give up and die. With this and the regression to a ‘performance’ this series ends. But it is ended by a fairly complex incentive from the unconscious—Gaber’s visit. The scene makes some concession to Moran’s reluctance; he is not to continue after Molloy, but to return home. On the other hand, he is obliged to get underway again rather than dying, and the scene moves toward a double pun that will emphasize his solitariness. He learns that Gaber is indifferent to his sufferings and that they have not altered Youdi’s optimistic view of life. And he suspects that the Obidil, which he has never met, may not even exist. No wonder the scene ends with Moran coming out of a fit of rage to discover that ‘my hands were full of grass and earth I had torn up unwittingly, was still tearing uI was literally uprooting . . . I desisted from it, I opened my hands, they were soon empty’ (165). The puns here emphasize Moran’s situation: he is at once uprooted and empty-handed. But he obeys the order and sets out, thereby generating another series of events.


Apart from the details that give his homeward journey some verisimilitude only three extended passages make up this long sequence: the 16 ‘questions of a theological nature’ (166) and the 17 ‘questions concerning me perhaps more closely’ (167); the dancing bees; and the encounter with the farmer. The movement here is from abstraction to reflection to pragmatism. Moran speaks of the ‘fiends in human shape’ that block his way (166) in offering these ‘one or two words’ ‘for my own edification and to prepare my soul to make an end’. The pious context triggers Moran’s scepticism. But what is actually in question? The dream now, rather surprisingly, characterizes Moran as a scholarly theologian (with ‘intellectual’s soft white hands’ and a knowledge of John Craig’s Theologiae christianae principia mathematica), but this is not merely in order to attack Christianity. Moran has just learned that the Gaber-Youdi-Obidil organization is indifferent to his sufferings. His psyche now turns to the mental equivalent of that social support: religion. The possibility of a theological and spiritual relationship that will protect Moran’s soul against fiends is now ridiculed. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, perhaps, but Moran’s mind is in fact extra. And his personal application of theological ideas suggests a side to his beliefs at once profit-seeking and absurd: ‘Would we all meet again in heaven one day, I, my mother, my son, his mother, Youdi, Gaber,’ etc.


Another personal question, ‘What had become of my hens, my bees?’, provides the unconscious with a more truly profitable sequence. Rejecting theology, authority, and personal motives, Moran turns to disinterested contemplation of a subject from his own world—the dancing bees. ‘I alone of all mankind knew this, to the best of my belief’ (168). The bees are a matter for meditation, not destructive questioning: ‘it would always be a noble thing to contemplate, too noble ever to be sullied by the cogitations of a man like me, exiled in his manhood’ (169). I shall return to these bees; suffice it to say for the moment that a vestige of the profit motive still attaches to them. Moran thinks that they will be a source of joy when he reaches home, and remarks with apparent irrelevance that on the way home he heard the voice for the first time: ‘I paid no attention to it’ (170). Even under desperate conditions he still responds to the lure of the pleasure principle. Only after he reaches home and finds the bees dead will he begin to listen to that voice.


The dream moves from a paradigm of disinterested pleasure (the dancing bees) to what Moran explicitly calls a paradigm (172) of all his molestation) and offenses on the homeward triIt is indeed a paradigm; in fact it is jury-rigged from details of many of his troubles earlier in the dream. Before setting out Moran had complained of the trouble his son would cause; one problem was that spectators would attribute to him ‘a wife long since deceased, in child-bed as likely as not’ (125). This speculative possibility now becomes a remembered wife, Ninette, who has died in child-bed. Similarly, he attempts to sway the angry farmer by turning his obligation to return home into a pilgrimage and, since the farmer is in Ballyba, its object becomes the safely distant Turdy madonna, itself created by the unconscious out of Martha’s enshrined madonna. The exclamation ‘I have sworn to make a bee-line to her!’ comes from the dancing bees, of course, just as the idea of a pilgrimage comes from the theological questions. The farmer himself reminds Moran of the farmer on whose account he and his son had turned aside, as Moran will now, when setting out. Moran says that his farmer did not resemble the earlier one, ‘and yet his face was familiar’. It should be, for he is wearing Gaber’s bowler and his bushy moustache.


The unconscious recycles all these properties in order to stress the importance of this encounter, but also to begin a reprise of the dream, just as Molloy’s unconscious had done at the very end of his. Abandoned by the organization and his religion, Moran turns to his own resources, and the outwitting of the farmer shows him to be self-sufficient. The elements of this three-part sequence are tightly related. It begins and ends in violence and cunning: although the farmer’s violence is mostly potential and nature’s violence is only rain, they both hark back to the devils, Judas’ torments, the chained martyr, the severe winter, and Lovat’s dreadful self-mutilations. Moran’s serpentine wiliness is prefigured in the slyly destructive theological questions and in Comestor’s crawling or walking serpent. (‘I must not eat,’ Moran exclaims just before praising his wiliness; Comestor means Eater.) Like the encounter with the farmer, the questions evoke the old world of fear, hope, and dependence, in which felicity is conventionally expressed as the reunion in heaven of people whose earthly relations are of dependence and victimization.


But from this unsatisfactory heaven Moran’s unconscious makes a great leap upward to the dancing bees. They create another kind of social order, of independent units caring for and communicating with each other. Earlier Moran remarked, in the present tense, ‘I have no ear for music’ (128). But if he lacks awareness of the kind of harmony that results from the resolving of recurrent discords into a conclusion, he has a full interest in the fixed harmony of the bees, which offers him a purified vision of that world of coming and going. Significantly he ignores the naturalistic purpose of the dancing, which in an old image is the production of sweetness and light. For him it is a process without end, a replacement for endless purgation, which his mind holds out as a carrot to lure him on. And its importance is suggested by the mention at this point of ‘a voice giving me orders, or rather advice’ (169).


As we saw in considering the end of part one, the appearance of the voice suggests the culmination of Moran’s psychological process -, not only the acknowledgement of his own Molloy qualities and the need for change, but also the recognition that the world in which he has been living is a projection of his mind. In the earliest minutes of the dream,  when Moran first describes the organization for which he worked, he lets fall an anticipation of this. He admits that this ‘vast organization’ does not, perhaps, exist; he even imagines in ‘moments of lucidity’ his ‘conjuring away the chief too and regarding myself as solely responsible for my wretched existence’ (107). This lucidity is now being forced upon him. Whether or not the indifferent Youdi exists, Moran is still responsible for himself. But his existence need not be wretched.


Of course the bees are dead when Moran reaches home, and necessarily so, for the sake of the novel, the dream, and Moran’s psychological development. They evoke a non-human harmony, and their primary sense for Moran is not external and social but internal and psychic, an evocation, for the man who exclaimed ‘How little one is at one with oneself,’ of a complex self existing harmoniously. We cannot imagine Moran, like Sherlock Holmes, settling down to an old age of literal beekeeping . . . or settling down at all, in his present state. He has had the experience but missed the meaning, and must now go over it again and understand it.


Even from this necessarily abbreviated account of Moran’s journey it should be clear that if the reader can accept the idea that the narrative is governed by the conventions of a significant Jungian dream series he must conclude that the journey is a somewhat successful and positive one. To be sure, Moran retains some ties with his social past and persona; to be sure, a man who intends to abandon his son, his job, and his position in the community is unsatisfactory by ordinary worldly standards. But of course those standards are precisely the standards questioned by the dream and found inadequate to define and sustain a self. For Moran to set out again in quest of Molloy—and on his own, now, rather than at Gaber’s direction—must be a good thing. And we need not fear that the Molloy he will find, in himself of course, will replicate the unsatisfactory Molloys that he has conjured up so far. We cannot predict a successful future for Moran, but we may say that all is not yet lost.


Molloy’s case is different, less clear, more complex. The goal of the psyche in both dreams is a change of personality based on the admission into the conscious ego of previously repressed or unavailable psychic elements. Both men tacitly accept a change of identity and signal this acceptance by referring to themselves in the third person at the end of their reports. Where Moran is eager to set out again after Molloy, Molloy ends passively, waiting for help, hearing a gong under leaves like brass (89). Are we meant to think of the Pauline epistle that Moran quotes and of ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal’ (I Corinthians 13:1)? But at the beginning of ‘Molloy’ he seems to have achieved his goal, since he has taken over his mother’s room. Why should we not conclude that he has completed the process required by the psyche?


We may sketch the beginning of an answer here, looking first at the psychological materials and then at some of the extended ramifications. From a Jungian viewpoint, it is disturbing that the mother has disappeared. (And even her disappearance, like Molloy’s possession of his mother’s room, is noted more or less as an afterthought, as Molloy acknowledges and as the Molloy manuscript confirms.) If we focus on that passage, with its emphasis on Molloy’s replacement of his mother, we must say that he has not assimilated his anima into his Self; he has on the contrary been submerged in it, his ego taken over by it. But if we take the whole narrative as more significant, with its repeated evasions of the anima, then we must suspect that Molloy has ‘taken her place’ (7) in the alternate sense: he has completely repressed her, ‘buried’ her psychologically. In either case the psyche’s craving for a fellow has not been satisfied.


We have seen that craving for a fellow acted out as a series of encounters between Molloy and his complementary feminine qualities, and we have seen that each encounter ends in his rejection of relationship and affection. We have noted from time to time what other commentators have discussed at length—the presence in the text of allusions to and echoes of such works as the Odyssey, Goethe’s Faust, and Dante’s Commedia. Such works provide not only specific phrases and events but also archetypal characters, and all of them are isolated, dissatisfied, and relevant to Molloy as he is rather than as he might be; they oppose the anima’s position rather than reinforcing it. We hear nothing of the Odysseus who longs for home or the Dante who seeks that Love that moves the sun and the other stars. Rather, we find evocations of the sinners and of an Odysseus shying away from women; and this Faust seeks no Margarete. In short, the structure of the ‘Molloy’ narrative is Jungian, but that narrative may be read as an attack on the Jungian ideal of an accommodation between the ego and those ideas and qualities represented by the anima. As his many uses of Descartes demonstrate, Beckett is quite capable of such an extended critique of ideas that interest but do not persuade him.


And finally—for this condensed summary --there is the subject of literary structures. By the time he wrote Molloy Beckett was developing and extending his interest in the patterning of elements within a literary work. Molloy’s reluctant search for the anima complements Moran’s for the animus (both in some sense abortive); one might reasonably expect a further complement, with Moran’s failure a positive one, Molloy’s negative. These are hasty reasonings, based on incomplete analysis, and one might consider the question still open. It nevertheless remains extremely probable that in Molloy we find Beckett’s by then extensive interest in Jungian ideas forming not only character and isolated event, but reaching even to the basic structures of the narrative. In the autumn of 1935 Beckett heard Jung, describing the dreams of a girl who died soon after, comment that ‘she had never been born entirely’.8 Beckett was deeply moved by that idea, and Molloy is his most extended expression of that sense of the human condition.


1 Three novels, New York, Grove 1965, 16. This text cited throughout.

2 Molloy, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1951, 41. This text cited throughout.

3 Psychology and religion, New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1938, 45.

4 Man and his symbols, New York, Doubleday, 1964, 53.

5 No’s knife, London, Calder & Boyars, 1975, 40.

6 Two essays on analytical psychology, trans. R.F.C. Hull, New York, Meridian Books, 1956, 208.

7 Symbols of transformation, trans. R.F.C. Hull, Princeton, N.J., Bollingen, I, 261.

8 Analytical psychology: its theory and practice (The Tavistock Lectures), New York, Vintage Books.