Happy Days: A Reflection of Emotions
“Critics have often seen in Samuel Beckett’s work an absurdity they believe to be modern and expressive of the world we live in” (Beja, Gontarski, Astier 1983, P.26). Happy Days play with two acts illustrates a world of emotions expressed in language and actions. It is a story of reduction and loss by which so much attachment to it may results to absurdity expressed in words and actions. Beckett in this play highlighted the significance of rituals and of things around us to disclose the profound implications of human emotions. “Beckett has said that in the play the characters of their state of being endlessly suspended in limbo” because of their hopeless relationship during their lifetime (Astro 1990, p.171). Now they are in the state of overcoming the punishment in the enclosed urns of no return.
Winnie and Willie are literally the only characters in this two act plays. The character of Winnie displays the importance of language and the importance of in talking someone must be listening or else language may turn out to be monologue thus meaningless. In the first act, she constantly chatters and talks encouraging Willie to listen. Her speeches are always in connection with references to great works in literature. Winnie recites various lines from different poetry that displays her need of connection and communion. Through the writers and authors of literature, she finds communion. She talks about the past and sometimes there is an air of sadness and loneliness in her voice. She manifests this loneliness through rituals: brushing her hair, her teeth and fiddling with the things inside her bag. Performing the rituals brings her happiness and cheerfulness. Her songs give her hope for life but some experience of loneliness snatches it away. She has no private sense of time and her thoughts are always manifested in words and rituals. Winnie does not exist in the present but rather lives according to the rhythm of the past and the future. Winnie is basically lonely whose true happiness of the present lies heavily on the assurance that Willie is conscious and listening to her. Furthermore through the art of rituals, Winnie defeats loneliness. Her bag that contains her toothbrush, her comb, revolver and magnifying glass has a life of their own. The things inside her bag symbolize her static world of rituals. Beckett with the character of Winnie reveals that aesthetic rituals are not only an expression of passion or human talents but it is also an agent of revealing human emotions.
Winnie repeats a story she has apparently repeats to her self many times before. The story about a child undressing her under a table in the nursery reflects her innocence, childish sexual curiosity and human vulnerability. Winnie’s repeated wonder, horror, loneliness and constant need for companionship are manifested in arts “bringing us to the recognition of wonder and horror of being human, at the same time reveals to us our primordial techne in the metaphors we shape, which in turn shape us” (Burkman 1987, p. 149). Moreover, language in this play reflects powerlessness; it is one, aside from rituals, the only form of defense mechanism to escape reality and the bitterness of the past.
Willie’s character on the other hand is the exact opposite of Winnie’s character. She is quiet speaking only when Winnie’s actions distracts and irritates him. The gaze of the second act shared by Winnie and Willie provides assurance of presence, though that presence is somewhat questionable. The gaze represents Winnie’s “happy days” of finally acquiring a short and subtle glimpse of Willie’s presence. Throughout the play both characters are so focus on their own created experiences but the gaze at the end of the play somewhat gave them a little sense of connection. The silence in that gaze also represents their sudden connection with the present and the reality.
Beckett in this play did not explain the reasons why these two characters are in such state of predicaments which makes the play more genius. It leaves questions to work out for yourself and what it is all about. The repetition, the interplay and precise movements of the characters are all haunting and meticulously symbolical leaving the meaning that every actions and physical manifestations of the character are but a representation of an escape, defense mechanism and human emotions. This is not an ordinary play because the approaches and themes are authentic probing to the reality of bitterness and how human beings, with their innate pride and ego, approach pain through arts and rituals to conceal the reality of their pathetic situation.
Work Cited Page:
Beja, M., Gontarski, S.E., Astier, P. Samuel Beckett Humanistic Perspective. Ohio USA.
Ohio State University Press, 1983 (P.26)
Burkman, Katherine. The Ritual of Human Techne in Happy Days. Myth and Ritual in the
Plays of Samuel Beckett. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1987 (p.149)
Astro, Alan. Understanding Samuel Beckett. South Carolina. Univ of South Carolina Press,