Nietzschean nihilism and the ways to overcome it in Tom Murphy's plays "Bailegangaire" and "The Sanctuary Lamp"

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Faculty of Education, Department of Foreign Language Education, Turkey

Approval Date: 2008




Nietzschean epistemology involved many subversive elements and, thus, posed a challenge to the Christian epistemology and to other traditional frames of references which appeared after the Enlightenment. With his philosophy Nietzsche problematised many of the traditional givens like the master signifier (God), the other organising principles, and the traditional binary oppositions on which the Western metaphysics was based. He shattered the previous parameters of existence irraparably when he disconnected the individual from his/her illusions by laying bare a decentered universe devoid of any form of meaning, and the result was nihilism in the beginning. Interestingly enough, Nietzschean epistemology also offered ways to overcome this nihilistic stage in an individual’s struggle for a meaningful existence. This thesis is based on the analysis of two plays by Tom Murphy, “Bailegangaire” and “The Sanctuary Lamp”, against the background of Nietzschean philosophy and attempts to discover the parallelisms between Murphy’s characters and Nietzschean elements in their search for the essence of existence and their desire for a meaningful life. In the plays, self-realisation of an individual, that is, overcoming nihilism, is mainly achieved by means of art and one’s individual strength, which is characterised by the ability to endure abyss, affirm life as it is, forget and forgive one’s enemies, follow instincts, employ one’s will to power, acquire the power and the position of God in one’s personal zone, and combine destruction and creation. The playwright conveys an individual’s loss of purpose and the inevitable chaos in the aftermath of the death of God and, also, the methods to surmount this nihilistic condition. The study comes to the conclusion that all the above Nietzschean elements build a solid background for Murphy’s drama, where the dramatist draws a picture of systematicity of existence of an individual who struggles to attain meaning.