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Act without Words

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Act without Words I is a mime by Samuel Beckett. The setting of the play is in a desert lightened up by astounding light. The play revolves around a man who fights to get in touch with certain objects that are persistently out of his reach. Despite of repeated frustrations, he still persists to reach for the next item to show up. This essay will focus on the analysis of the play.

As the play starts, a man is tossed backwards on the arena. He is the only character in the whole play. A whistle is blown from the right direction and after reflecting for a while, the man proceeds in that direction as if to answer a call. He is tossed back again. This time around, the whistle originates from the left side and he faces that direction (Beckett, 2006, para. 3). This action is repeated several times. The man seems trapped and has no where to run to.

Thereafter, a number of items are lowered into the stage starting with a palm tree. Before an object is lowered, a whistle is heard to indicate its arrival. When a pair of scissors is lowered, the man does not realize until the whistle is blown (Beckett, 2006, para. 5). Other objects are lowered in the course of the play such as cubes of varying sizes, and a knotted rope which are always out of reach.

Finally, he seems to have given up as he sits on the big cube. After some time, the cube is pulled from below leaving him on the ground. This makes him decline to reach for the objects any more. Even when the tree opens to give shade, he declines to move to the shade (Beckett, 2006, para. 7). Also, when the flask of water is swayed before him, he declines to have it, but sits staring at his hands.

The mime is apparently a psychological experiment within the structure of a conventional fable.  The character in the play is tossed by external superior forces which limits him within a hostile setting, that of a desert. He is made to deal with the aggressive forces. The man is equipped with two natural tools, his mind and hands, which elevates him more than other animals (Gontarski, 2003, para. 3). He uses them for survival and secures some water in the desert. It is found that the mind helps him learn how to place small cubes on the large ones. He is also led to invention through the help of the objects lowered to him. However, when he masters the use of the tools, they are taken away from him. He learns that he can use the scissors to cut the blocks and rope in addition to trimming his nails (Gontarski, 2003, para. 3). At the end, he is basically crushed and remains beaten as he lies on the desert. It can also be argued that the deliberate decline of the man to obey at the end presents the rebellious nature of man.

The inferior force is found to be subjective to the superior one. The climax is presented as a traditional ending. Sarcastically, the character’s life gains significance at the end. In this decline, the cutting of the rope signifies a second birth, that of a man. He in fact gets a name, a man. He refuses to obey the summons by the external force and through his refusal to fight for the most basic of his needs, he is born (Gontarski, 2003, para. 5). At the beginning of the play, the man is formed, however, at the end; he is the one creating himself. By refusing to accept pleasure from the shade and other offers, he is a free man.

The play is thus not wholly on the issue of rebellion to some domineering forces. It focuses on a man who tries to deliver himself from outer forces such as tradition, nature and mythology among others (Gontarski, 2003, para. 7). At the end, the man is free of his intuition for survival and delivered from the inadequacy of acting according to his personality. The end is an artistic achievement for the man and his significant in the play. 

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