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Samuel Beckett: Murphy

Murphy was Beckett’s first novel and is perhaps more accessible than his later works and has more in common with other Irish writers in its wry humour, use of language and its mocking of Ireland. But the end is the same as for all his heroes – sad, pathetic, final. Murphy is in love with Celia, a prostitute by trade. They get engaged because, as Beckett so succinctly puts it Celia loved Murphy, Murphy loved Celia, it was a striking case of love requited. However, Celia expects Murphy to find a job, which he does not have, not least because she wishes to retire from her profession. But Murphy’s plans are somewhat disrupted when his Irish past catches up with him in the form of his former mentor, Neary, his former girlfriend, Catherine Counihan (a play on Yeats’ Catherine na Houlihan, the symbol of Ireland), Wylie, Cooper and other assorted characters and he and Celia split up. Murphy gets a job in a lunatic asylum – the Magdalen Mental Mercyseat – where he lives in a garret and works with his friend Ticklepenny. Murphy soon finds that the patients are kindred souls. For example, there is Mr. Endon who had a psychosis so limpid and imperturbable that Murphy felt drawn to it as Narcissus to his fountain, with whom Murphy plays chess where the aim seems to be to avoid losing pieces or even avoid checking the opponent. But Murphy, sadly, dies in a fire because of a gas leak and his ashes, instead of being flushed down the toilet at the Abbey Theatre, are spilled in a Dublin pub and trampled on.

Publishing history

First published 1938 by Routledge