Samuel Beckett's Endgame - Essay Example

2021-06-21 11:05:47
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Harvey Mudd College
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Samuel Beckett's Endgame is a reference to one of the most crucial moments of the chess game. If applied brilliantly, the endgame has the power to result in a well-executed winning move. On the other hand, if poor tactics are used, then one is doomed to lose. The fate of the game always lies on the moves the player makes at any point in time. The title of the play thus serves to give the reader an insight into what the overall theme is, calling back to the overall picture he hopes to give to the viewer. It is apparent that the writer uses the term finished' frequently to make the reader understand that anything that has a beginning has an end, or will come to a close. Samuel Beckett's Endgame explores the idea of death as a way through which one can escape suffering.

The underlying theme of death is introduced from the very onset of the story. Beckett starts his play by stating, "Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must nearly be finished" (1). Clover's first line echoed at the very beginning of the play depicts the end of something important, possibly his suffering, or even his life. When Hamm fits in the conversations asking if there could be any misery loftier than his, Clov's words serve as an automatic indicator of the fact that they are both are in a state of despair and longs for an end to all that the best way they know how maybe even death. Clov is obviously tired and bored of life. He states, "All lifelong the same questions, the same answers," just after openly admitting, "It may end." Obviously, Clov's sentiments are those of someone tired of and bored with life, one who longs for it all to end. Becket paints Clov as a servant who is tired of doing what he does and prays for an end of it all. His long life of service has led him to the conclusion that he is tired.

The characters in the play are in a constant setting and an immobile state, not able to move and interact freely with their surroundings. In Endgame, the author has used the idea of applying strictly words, setting, language and an all events on one stage technique to bring out the constant misery the characters are facing. The characters cannot move, nor can they enjoy the only source of hope in their lives freely available natural light. All that they can do is avoid even consoling each other. The nature of their interaction is another tool of displaying the misery the four of them are embroiled in. Clov and his compatriots cannot even get away from each other, while their miseries bind them so strongly together that even when one needs to leave he cannot. Death is thus presented as a place of solace. Cold, final, but ready to welcome them in its enthusiastic embrace, providing comfort from all that they wanted to get away from each other in as much as they try to get away from but are unable to. Death manages to soothe their agony, and offer them the reprieve.

Endgame portrays a desperate world, one with no hope and in which there is not even a single shred of hope. Beckett brings out the world that cannot be redeemed by any means known to man. Moreover, he makes maximum use of the four characters on a very tiny stage filled with dirt to communicate his intended message. In the world he has created, that even Clov's parents are clinging to dustbins, unable to move or redeem their state of life. In their meagre existence, there is utterly no piece of comfort to stir up even a shard of life. All that the four characters can do is repeat the same short lines filled with lamentations about why they stick together despite the fact that they try to get away from each other but they cannot. Fear holds them, hostage since they feel like they have no better place than where they are. What should be a bother turns into a source of strength as the characters find comfort in their inability to depart from each other. Even as the play progresses, Hamm thinks of so many things. The most striking of these is the ending of time. After all, what could be the best explanation of death other than the ultimate end of one's time? When we die, our reigns draw to a close, and our live cease to exist. He says "Moments for nothing, now as always, time was never and time is over, reckoning closed and story ended." This thought could be thought in vast ways but saying that "time was never" then he implies that he has lived all his life and no more makes sense, he speaks as someone who has seen his last day from ". time is over" "reckoning closed". His life is as if it never was and it matters not for all is gone, this is sentiments of someone who has known no happiness and has lived a life that never was, this depicts the kind of destitution the party encountered in his brutal life, a life that "is finished". A life that never mattered.

To Hamm and Clov, death seems to be the only way out of the desperate life they are living, and the meaningless state of abject poverty they are subjected to. The following excerpt says a lot about this:

HAMM: Have you not had abundant?

CLOV: Yes! (Pause.) Of what?

HAMM: Of this ... this ... thing.

CLOV: I always had. (Pause.) Not you?

HAMM (gloomily) Then there's no reason for it to change.

CLOV: It may end. (Pause.) All lifelong the same questions, the same answers.

Clearly, Clov is tired. He says he has had enough of it all and it may end. Hamm, who has grown comfortable in his mediocre existence, is so sure that any changes will be for the worst. He thus expresses contentment with the present life, no matter how miserable it is. To Hamm, it matters no more and calls it a "thing" as if it is useless and has no value. The idea of same questions and answers depict the actual nature of how disillusioned they are. Hamm goes on to say "Nature has forgotten us" and Clove quickly hits backs with "there is no more nature," that it is "in the vicinity." What could be the best definition of such utterances other than individuals who have kissed death, after all "it is finished!!"

Nell's death has an interesting depiction of the entire theme. It brings it out in a very stylish way for he is the only one able to be free from the complete misery. That which the writer was able to express in the very short lines filled with meaningless cliches, in a way this displays the boredom and pain the characters are experiencing. It's like that very sick individual in his death who tends to preserve all his last energy to very short lines to convey their final wish, the difference here is the cliches that amicably portray the boredom in their lives. In the dying of Nell, his last word is "desert", this is interesting due to the fact that deserts are dry. Lifeless, hot and a very unpleasant environment, Hamm interprets this to mean that he should go to the desert, later on, to realize that he had not understood what Nell meant. Despite all this, there is some sense of feeling that it is only Nell that has been freed from the boredom of their lives. Hamm goes to the extent of requesting clove to end his life but Clov refuses, he constantly tells clove to leave for he knows the eventual will be his death.

The writer tends to portray the relationship between Hamm and clove as a mutual relationship in which Hamm provides food and shelter, whereas Clov provides legs and eyesight Clov's leaving is an act of suicide. If he leaves Hamm, he won't have any food, and without someone to feed him, Hamm will die. This is a technique the writer has employed to bind the two characters to their fate, this binds their miseries, and no one seems to have the freedom to depart from it. The departure of one assures the mutual destruction of the other. The writer further employs physical disability to depict the extent of their miseries, that not only are this characters bored with life but also disabled, they all have different kinds of disabilities that again tie them together, Hamm doesn't have a good sight and is in a wheelchair, he also gets constant headaches. Nagg and Nell are disabled, and they can't see each other. Nagg is partially deaf, and Nell is unable to cry. Clov has stiff legs and is unable to sit down. Beckett has used this disability to amplify their state of poverty, inability to develop and subdue themselves from their miseries.

It's as if the writer was depicting the state of affairs in his home turf at the time of the writing, this was during the world wars.Beckett studies and puts to writing the evils and destruction the wars has brought upon his nation, maybe even crippled it and denied of its citizens the freedom to enjoy their democracies. The wars that might have made the citizens rise on each other depicted by Hamm and Clov, one constantly chasing and fighting each other in as much as they actively need one another for survival.

In conclusion, Samuel Beckett's Endgame is a tacit exploration of how death can serve to give a person release from their suffering. He brings out the world that cannot be redeemed by any means known to man by portraying the lives of four characters in a constant setting and an immobile state, not able to move and interact freely with their surroundings. The characters endure immense suffering that they wish for death.


Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. 1st ed. New York: Grove Press, 1958. Print.

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