“Did you never have the curiosity, while I was sleeping, to take off my glasses and look to my eyes”
In Beckett’s play, it is clear that thing are in a state of being dead. There is no emotion, very little human interaction, repetitiveness, and most importantly, a state of being indifferent. These repetitve actions that Hamm and Clov seem to engage in are just something that they have always done, so why now would they question it. This repetitiveness leads ultimately to their indifference. If they care not for why they do something, why would they care about the people and things who do those actions as well? The indifference that they show resembles Eliot’s Waste Land in both the people’s feelings toward each other as well as the absurdity that those actions cause.
In Eliot’s first part in his Waste Land, toward the end the reader is set in the city of London after being taken to the trenches of WWI, and the author remarks, “Unreal City/ Under the brown fog of a winter dawn/ A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many/ I had not thought death had undone so many” [60-63]. The war lead the culture to continue as they were doing, yet inside they were essentially dead. Not concerned for their neighbor, not really even concerned for themselves. Death had undone them; it had undone their feelings, actions, and life.
Beckett is an odd one, I will say that. While reading this first section it sent me in a state of confusion and a bit of frustration because of the way Beckett creates his dialogue. I think that Beckett uses dialogue, storyline and repetition to critique the history of western civilization. Through dialogue his critique is expresses by the random outbursts and short, unimportant phrases.
The storyline is what mainly caught my attention because of how it did not seem to make much sense other than the reactions from Hamm, Clov, and Nagg. Hamm does not really seem to have an idea of where he is going and is so demanding, rude, and inconsistent because (in my opinion) he is a representation of Beckett’s feelings towards the history of western civilization. For example, when responds to Hamm’s question on page 2584 with “Looks like it” there is an unreasonably irrational reaction from Hamm of, “What’s happening, what’s happening?” followed by Clov’s response, “Something is taking its course” and a calm reaction from Hamm of “All right, be off.” That small little section really sent me for a loop during this reading because while I am just starting to make sense of what is going on, Beckett throws in these strange few lines and then it’s over. Beckett uses this tactic to employ his opinion of how history starts to make sense after a while until someone wants to throw in a curveball to stress everyone out. Well, that’s how I see it anyway.
In the play Endgame, Beckett uses a setting outside of history in order to critique the actually history of Western Civilization. For me, the thing that stood out the most was the pointlessness of the characters’ existence. Each of them have horrible things wrong with them that prevent them from moving around or living in a normal way. And so they just stay in their home, without doing anything. They don’t seem to take enjoyment out of anything. Hamm speaks of yesterday, and describes it as being “that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day.” They are clearly unhappy, but they do nothing to change it. They just continue on, living their pointless existences. I feel that this is in some ways a critique of the history or Western civilization, because it is commenting on the pointlessness of our own lives.
There were certain aspects of this play that seemed to me to reflect some of what we saw in T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. The idea of an ultimate indifference that we see in The Wasteland seems to also be seen in Endgame. Hamm describes at length about being blind one day, and says that “Infinite emptiness will be all around you…” Aspects like this seem similar between the two works. However, because The Wasteland deals directly with what’s happening in civilization, rather than inventing a new setting to talk about it, they seem ultimately different.
To me, Beckett seems to use the setting of house combined with the character’s actions and words to comment on the history of Western Civilization. Something I picked up in Engame was that seems to be life is a circular existence without a specific beginning or ending. In turn the characters act out repetitive rituals, becoming static and stuck in a state of paralysis in their lives. The paralysis can literally be seen in the facts that Hamm is stuck in a wheel chair, Clov can never really seem to leave, and Hamm’s parents are usually only confined to their bins. I feel Beckett is saying we go through our lives looking for meaning but there really is no meaning in life itself, and in doing this we become repetitive.
Adding to this, the character of Hamm seems to be afraid of change. After Clov pushes him around the room, Hamm wants to be put back in the center of the room. Exactly where he was before. “Put me right in the center! I feel a little too far to the left. Now I feel a little too far to the right. I feel a little too far forward. Now I feel a little too far back”. To increase his apprehension, he is also afraid of the flea Clov has because “humanity might start from it all over again”. He becomes very concerned with making sure its caught and killed.
Compared to Eliot’s The Waste Land, I don’t feel they are that similar. I definitely do see the decay and destruction of the world in both of these but I wasn’t immediately reminded of The Waste Land when reading it. Similar to Eliot’s, Beckett’s world is vacant, almost post-apocalyptic in which he and the others seem to be the only inhabitants. I feel The Waste Land engages with actual history more so than Endgame.
” Loveliness and stillness, clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions-“Will you fade? Will you perish?”- scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain.” (128)
I don’t think there was a more powerful passage to me in the section “Time Passes” than this one. Woolf uses narrative perspective most in this section of the book, in my opinion, because it is here that an overall feeling of “my life is being consumes by war and nothing else” is prevalent. In this quoted section, I believe it is the last two words that make the passage: we remain. How else should survivors of the first World War feel? This small section seems as if it is almost an inner monologue of an actual veteran that cannot believe that they are still alive after all the disgusting, ruthless, and truly god-forsaken acts that they have seen. It hits home to me because it really uses the details that we might take for granted and shows how it must feel to return to your life that waited for you to come back from a hell on earth. We remain: a simple fact of a complex history.
There is a dominant point that I feel Eliot makes in his writing of “The Waste Land”: disappointment. I did not feel at any moment that he was pleased with his country and if there was a moment I am sure that it contained unreal amounts of sarcasm. His use of quotations and what appears to be random fragmentation throughout the piece opposes Arnold’s style of organized and particular writing. I really appreciated the way he put things together, meaning his lack of directness and apparent randomness, that allowed for his raw emotion and upset attitude towards his nation to arise. A quote that displays this more directly is when he writes, “Ta ta. Goodnight. Goodnight./ Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” While there is a repeated phrase it is almost a perfect demonstration of how Eliot is trying to portray one point with no certainty and full of vague intentions.
The characteristic of imagism that stood out to me when reading “Araby” was dramatic understatement. While it is plain to notice that there is immense detail, an opposition to Victorian literature, and a type of concreteness about Joyce’s writing, I feel that a key factor in “Araby” has to do with how Joyce portrays slightly monumental instances to be not a dig deal. For instance when he says “Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen.” (2219) I can’t help but feel a bit creeped out. Because Joyce goes into quite a bit of detail in those sentences and makes it apparent that the young boy who is doing this has done this many times before, I feel as if this should be big deal because it is clearly not normal and really creepy. I hate to be repetitive and sound like an obnoxious middle schol girl but I really cannot move past the fact that throughout this piece Joyce makes notions that seem a bit out of the ordinary play out to be much less climactic than they should be. Another instance when this happens is not too far down when the young boy mentions how “her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance” and when he continues to give an instance of how he imagines her name falling from his lips “at moments in strange prayers and praises” which confused even him (2219). I am sorry, but if I found out a little ten year old boy was thinking this about me I would really have to reevaluate my daily routine! I think it is one of Joyce’s most admirable traits that he can create a scene such as this and produce such emotion/ discomfort from readers!
It is in this image that I found the most resemblance to William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. It may be a far stretch for some but I can reasonably see why it is that this image ties into Blake’s writing. In the beginning of this writing it is titled “The argument” and it is a description of a villain, perilous paths and a just man. In the beginning lines (1-9) there is a juxtaposition that I think is found in the painting, “Roses are planted where thorns grow./ And on the barren heath/ Sing the honey bees.” Here, Blake uses words such as “roses”, “sing” and “honey bees” that tend to bring more innocent and lively thoughts to mind and compares then against words such as “thorns” and “barren heath” which bring about a more sinister feeling. The contrast that Blake makes here is similar to the dark vs. light side of hell vs. heaven and it also compares with the imagery in the painting above. In the painting, the almost angelic looking creature hovers over a likely deceased body with a fire-filled and dark background. While the image between the “angel” and the “deceased body” appears to be a moment of grace, the dark and mysterious background filled with fire gives the impression that all is not as it should be. This part of “The marriage of Heaven and Hell” stuck out to me as I was looking upon this painting specifically.