I found it rather entertaining that Endgame is the last work we’ll blog about in this class, though I wish we could have ended on a happier note. It’s rather depressing and hard to grasp at times, though it certainly follows in step with Eliot’s The Waste Land. Both examine the Western World after the devastation of WWI, and both find a bleak, uninviting, and meaningless place.
The Waste Land was about the degradation of Western society, where people were more machines than humans, where traditional actions have no meaning. People act out their lives because that’s how they are supposed to go; they eat their canned food, and one is “glad” for things to be “over” (line 252). Endgame makes use of the same premises (I question the use of the first, however), though it is more concerned with the after-effects of The Waste Land; for example, while in Eliot’s poem people still perform these “traditional actions” that no longer have meaning, Beckett does away with them all together, to bring light into a world without any meaning. Nothing means anything in Endgame.
While Beckett’s world seems to be after Eliot’s, there is no indication of a time-line. The past is simply “yesterday” (p. 2586), though “yesterday” is confused with all the other “yesterdays” that exist. As Clov says, “[yesterday] means that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day” (p. 2597). There is no real past in Endgame, there’s only what “was before,” but what “was before” is never expressed. There is no time, there is no past, there is no future, and thus we realize that the world (the Western world, anyway) is devoid of all of these things, and everything is devoid of meaning.
Endgame exists in a world devoid of meaning, in a world devoid of fertility (the death of Nell, the only female in the play), in a world that exists but yet does not exist, an eternal place that was once something else, but will never be something else. The Waste Land gave us an understanding of why, and a suggestion that we may be able to fix it; Endgame leaves us hopeless.