Professor Peter Cassidy
LIT 222 C00
2 May 2015
Endgame by Samuel Beckett
It could be argued that Endgame, seemingly void of plot and meaning, is a play where nothing of importance happens. At a first glance, the story appears monotonousness, focusing on the lives of four invalids, with nothing to offer to society. However, this play begs the following question: when the world as society knows it crashes down and is left in a state of nothingness, what is the point? Is dependence and relationship at the heart of it all? Or is life truly bleak and meaningless? Outside of the evident absurd influences mimicking human existence, there are else strong characteristics of existentialism, which focuse on individual existence rejecting the absolute reason. The fact that the play appears to lack a plot is really the plot in itself. The nothingness in fact creates something, and it is in these menial tasks of everyday life that Beckett gives meaning of the tale: life holds no meaning.
Repetition is at the heart of Endgame, and the characters find refuge in these day to day ordeals. Upon an initial look, simple tasks can be viewed as nothing happening, as they are often used as fillers in other literary works. However, for Beckett’s characters, routine is what gives meaning to life, and provides a reason to wake up in the morning. After debating the color of the sky yet again, Clov asks “Why this farce day after day?” “Routine. One never knows…” answers Hamm. (Damrosch et all 2593). Clov and Hamm do not understand why they cannot modify their habits, nor do they truly seem to want any change. Hamm later interjects in fear “We’re not beginning to…to…mean something?” Clovs laughs at the absurdity and exclaims “Ah that’s a good one!” (Damrosch et all 2593). They find a sense of peace in their simplicity, and see no reason if giving hope and meaning where there is none. Comedy is also woven throughout and only meant to alleviate the harsh reality pursued in the parody in the quest for meaning. If life truly is meaningless, one might as well enjoy it and find silver lining amidst the looming cloudy sky that will inevitably consume everyone at some time or another.
Another point can be found in the simplicity and building block style of the dialogue. The characters do not utilize extensive language, and the audience or readers are forced to remember what was previously mentioned to draw a sense of wholeness. Many of the sentences are short, choppy, and filled with household jargon: “A rat! Are there still rats?” “In the kitchen there’s one.” “And you haven’t exterminated him?” “Half. You disturbed us.” (Damrosch et all 2602). Beckett seems to convey the value of portraying an existence with few words in time when the importance of existence is doubted by the awareness that life can end anytime, emanating that life is short and insignificant like the lives of these characters. The meaningless of the dialogue can also express that Beckett viewed language itself as also meaningless, bringing it back around to the point that humans like to give meaning where there is none.
There are moments where the characters try to create their own little world within the house, attempting to derive some sort of meaning. For example, the toy dog was an intentionally placed symbol. Hamm asks several questions about the dog “Is he gazing at me? As if he were asking me for a walk? Or as if he were begging me for a bone?” (Damrosch et all 2596). Clov answers with an unconvincing “yes,” but it’s still enough for Hamm to sit happily in his created world, completely ok with the fact that he is ignoring what is real; the dog is not alive nor is it desiring his company. This would suggest that Beckett believed mankind spends a great deal of existence tricking ourselves into believe things matter, and putting false meaning where there is none.
Endgame also illustrates the need for dependency amongst people. Although they all frustrate each other, due to their afflictions, one cannot survive without the others. The parents in the trash cans needed general care, and Hamm needs parents. Hamm needs something less debilitated than he, and Clov needs a father figure and place to stay. Hamm also places a great deal of dependency on drugs. He asks several times throughout the play if it is yet time to take his “pain killer.” Clov usually has a negative reply in turn, and Hamm is left in his agonizing state. This can be viewed as drugs and other vices being the only hope for peace in a pointless world. Another approach can be found in the fact that Clov never complies with Hamm’s request, signifying that there is perhaps no “pain reliever” for the pointless existence of a mediocre life.
A final thought expressed in the play if the fear of death, regardless of its eminent presence to follow a pointless life. Even though the circumstances are dire, the characters are unwillingly to end their suffering. In fact, they seem to be anxious about death, even though it is the only way to end the pain of life. There’s a part in the play where Hamm orders Clov to build them a raft to escape. However, Clov begins to take action, Hamm demands him to stop, unable to confront the problem. There’s a deep existentialist theme here showing that people desire to confront nothingness, but are either to hopeless or afraid to change their circumstances.
Beckett uses Endgame to show that is pointless, and meaning is falsely given to anything to create an unrealistic sense of hope. To cope, people find consolation in routine and dependency whether on others or vices. Even though death will come to all and there is nothing further to gain from life, people still hold onto it intently, afraid of change. Whether one agrees with Beckett’s perspective fully, this is an undeniable struggle everyone experiences at one time or another.
Damrosch, David, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Susan J. Wolfson, and Peter J. Manning. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 5th ed. Vol. 2C. Boston: Longman, 2012. Print.