Modernism is not mere representation to a period of time but it also represents a life style, way of thinking, different perspective to things, and rebel creation of art against previous schools. Therefore we will try to define this movement and present its characteristics especially in literature. Through wandering at Modernism we will take Endgame as an example of the absurd theater that written by Samuel Beckett and we will explain how it embodies the characteristics of Modernism, language, style, and so forth.
Modernism is cultural movement that reflects certain changes not only in the arts (literature, drama, painting, music, sculpture, dance, architecture) but in sciences such as physics, chemistry, and so forth. Modernist production rose after World War to break tradition, beliefs, principles, and rules, "this break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views". Therefore Modernism refuses a single way of looking at world and obvious separation between "right and wrong, good and bad, and hero and villain". Modernists rebelled against Victorian ideals".
They emphasized humanism over nationalism and how humans were part and responsible to nature, plus "they challenged the idea that God played an active role in the world". So this leads them to the concept or notion that "no person or thing born to specific use" thus they challenged any assumption that point to presence meaning and purpose behind world events. The term "modernism" includes significantly "experimental arts" in addition to its rejection for any "traditional style and conventions".
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Its technique is characterized by "the disruption of chronological linear plot in fiction , the use of fragmentary images and dense allusions in poetry, and the abandonment of realist or naturalist characterization and dialogue in drama". All these features will be useful in analysis Endgame as an absurdist theater. Endgame "tends to support the superficial view that people and things are meaningless, without significance". In comparison between Modernism and conventional drama such as Realism and Naturalism we will find extreme differences between them.
Realism in literature was part of a wider movement in the arts to focus on ordinary people and events. Realists tries to portray real life at the period of time (French revolution). It uses technique that represents real speech, action, events and clear emotions. Realist works are characterized by traditional narrative and real story that has real characters, events and conflict. Naturalism is a literary movement which "characterized by the application of scientific determinism to literature".
It depends on assumption that is real exists in nature. "Realism and Naturalism are often linked due to its emphasis on realistic people in realistic settings, featuring ordinary people struggling against unseen forces over which they have no control. Realism and Naturalism differs insomuch that Realism focuses on literary technique whereas Naturalism focuses on a specific philosophy". Through our presentation for the characteristics of Modernism, we will give an example from Endgame that is written by Samuel Beckett.
This play belongs to the absurdist theater "Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose … Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless. " Eugene Ionesco. Modernism as style of writing refers to new techniques to communicate the ideas or notions that are presented. One of its features is static, stripped action and dialogue and periods of silence. So it rejects any traditional styles and convention by "its adoption of radically innovative and often complex, difficult forms".
This is embodied through Endgame. Endgame as the title describes an ending already known in the last part of a chess game, when there are very few pieces left and its masters always study how they guaranty themselves victory through maneuver their enemy into certain position. The play begins with ambiguous Clov's words that stresses on ending "Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished". The traditional development of events that involve a beginning and end of a story rejected through absurd theater.
Therefore "The play is not divided into acts or scenes, there is no interval", thus there is a sense of repetition, some words and phrases return but they are never the same, e. g. "pain killer", "there's no more pain killer". The repetition of words, the static movement and the general atmosphere point to that nothing will be changed, "the implication is that the characters live in an unchanging, static state.
Each day contains the actions and reactions of the day before, until each event takes on an almost itualistic quality". Endgame is one-act ply with four characters that divided into two pairs, Hamm and Clov who placed the major roles, Nagg and Nell who not appear at first but throughout the play we will discover that they are Hamm's parents. The sitting for End game is a bare room with two small windows situated high up on the back wall. Hamm seated in wheelchair and he is covered with a sheet. There are two dustbins that Nagg and Nell's lodging.
There is along ladder which Clov needs it to look at through windows that high and narrow, the right one looks out over the earth and the left one looks out over the sea. HAMM (wearily): Quiet, quiet, you're keeping me awake. (Pause. ) Talk softer. (Pause. ) If I could sleep I might make love. I'd go into the woods. My eyes would see... the sky, the earth. I'd run, run, they wouldn't catch me. (Pause. )
Nature! (Pause. ) There's something dripping in my head. (Pause. ) A heart, a heart in my head. (Pause. NAGG: Do you hear him? A heart in his head! (He chuckles cautiously. ) NELL: One mustn't laugh at those things, Nagg. Why must you always laugh at them? NAGG: Not so loud! NELL (without lowering her voice): Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But— This part of the dialogue presents some features of Modernism. Nagg and Nell live in static place (two dustbins) from the beginning to end. They make superficial dialogue between each other that represents unconventional situation and action.
As for Hamm, cannot leave his wheelchair nevertheless he is the master and Clove with his mechanical movement is the servant, P. S Clove is the only character who moves on his legs. It also presents the relationships between Hamm and Clov, Nagg and Nell, and the four among each other. The first relationship that embodied by Hamm and Clov represents master/slave and father/son needs, Hamm cannot live without Clov's help because of his inability (blind and disabled), in other hand, Clov needs survival that Hamm provides him.
Nagg and Nell's presence in two separated dustbins make them unable to contact with each other but comfort each other, they 'popping up their heads to call for food" that become 'a dog biscuit'. The absurd theater also characterized by use of gestures and mime that mixed with quite silence "pregnant pauses". Beckett focuses on using mime and gesture to portray the unspoken desires of his characters, and the ways of death dominates our thoughts. Hamm's disability to move from his chair and see by his blind eyes point to that he already died because he cannot do anything to himself only through Clove.
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