Samuel Beckett, whose play Waiting for Godot was one of the most influential works for the post-World War II generation, has long been identified with the debilitated and impotent characters he created. In this provocative book, Lois Gordon offers a new perspective on Beckett, challenging the prevalent image of him as reclusive, self-absorbed, and disturbed. Gordon investigates the first forty years of Beckett's life and finds that he was, on the contrary, a kind and generous man who responded sensitively and even heroically to the world around him. Gordon describes the various places and events that affected Beckett during this formative period: war-torn Dublin during the Easter Uprising and World War I, where he spent his childhood and student days; Belfast and Paris in the 1920s and London during the Depression, where he lived and worked; Germany in 1937, where he traveled and witnessed Hitler's brutal domestic policies; prewar and occupied France, where he was active in the Resistance (for which he was later decorated); and the war-ravaged town of Saint-Lô in Normandy, which he helped to restore following the liberation. Gordon also portrays the individuals who were important to Beckett, including Jack B. Yeats, Alfred Péron, Thomas McGreevy, and, most significantly, James Joyce, who was a model for Beckett personally, artistically, and politically. Gordon argues convincingly that Beckett was very much aware of the political and cultural turmoil of this period and that the enormously creative works he wrote after World War II can, in fact, be viewed as a product of and testament to those tumultuous times.