Date of Award

Fall 8-1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. James L. Pethica

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Loxterman

Third Advisor

Dr. Louis Schwartz


Samuel Beckett has asserted that language is a "veil" in which he must "bore one hole after another..., until what lurks behind it - be it something or nothing - begins to seep through." This thesis employs Derrida's assertion that language involves the play of differance and the supplementarity of the sign. Since the supplement, in Derrida's words, "fills and marks a determined lack," language calls attention to the gap of nothingness already present in the play of differance. Murphy and Watt present both the desire for "semantic succour" of the veil and the awareness - more fully developed in Beckett's later work - that, despite a continued wish to enclose nothingness, the veil must continually rent. This dynamic is thematically and linguistically apparent in these two works. Thus Beckett's characters may not enclose nothingness, but continuing to "go on" with words they may find value in continuing the process.