Symbols used in Beckett’s Murphy

Samuel Beckett has used a few symbols to forward his existential vision. Some of the symbols Beckett used in this novel are enumerated below.

Samuel Beckett

Skullscape of Murphy - In chapter six Beckett interrupts the progress of the narrative to offer a description this skullscape. Beckett has said that this skullscape is a self-enclosed entity. This entity has little contact with the outer world. It is divided into three zones; light, drawn from the material world; half-light, an autepurgatory of sloth to which he tries to escape and a dark zone, which is a mote in the dark of absolute freedom.

This dark zone, which is part of skullscape, symbolically stands for the subconscious. Murphy's retreat into the world of oblivion and nothingness is analogous to his descent into the subconscious. Like Kurtz in Conrad "Heart of darkness" Murphy fell victim to his own subconscious forces.

Chess game is a frequently played game of Beckett. Staticity and non progression are the recurrent theme in "Murphy". To foreground this theme Beckett brought into narrative light that situation in which no participant in the game appears to have won the game. In the novel, Murphy and Mr. Endon play chess game. At a certain moment in playing the game, neither Murphy nor Endon appears to have won the game. That indicates the stasis of life. Murphy was caught in non involving, non progressive and static and futile mode of living. This non-involvement and his pang of being trapped in staticity became too fatal to him. Recognition of a bleak aspect of Murphy by Mr. Endon suggests the symbolic death of Murphy.

The third important symbol is a kite which is played by Celia's grandfather. Kite flying symbolizes Mr. Kelly's struggle to escape from alienation

The four people (Cooper, Wylie, Neary and Miss Counihan) undertake a journey to track down Murphy's dwelling. Their journey itself is symbolic of pointless journey which can't bring about the ultimate solution of the problem.

Murphy sits in a rocking chair in his room at a Dublin boarding house. He ties himself to his beloved teak wood rocker and rocks himself into a state of blissful nonbeing, a retreat in which the body is vacated in order to free the mind for endless roaming in the actual and virtual. This trademark position of Murphy symbolizes his quest for the grail of oblivion, which is a kind of emancipation from worldly suffering.