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by Samuel Beckett

It's like Genesis, but not…

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

We get into the idea of Endgame as a game of chess in "What's With the Title?" Here, we are going to consider another way to think of the play as a whole. Think of it as the un-creation, as the opposite of the book of Genesis in the Bible. Hamm is playing God and is trying to bring the world back out of existence. Think we're full of hot air? Check out a few details:

  • Hamm mentions that Clov's father was a gardener. Clov laughs at this. What is the first Biblical garden that comes to mind? Eden, right?

  • Now, consider what happens when Hamm has Clov look out of the windows for him. One window is the earth and the other is the sea. This is similar to Genesis 1:9 when God separates land and water by saying, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so." Hamm also wants to know, "Is it light?" (1.632). This seems to echo Genesis 1:3 when God says, "Let there be light."

  • Hamm speaks of his fellow men as creatures, and wants to know about the gulls and the horizon and the sun. Note that in Genesis 1:20, God says, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." Sounds similar, doesn't it?

  • At one point, he wants to build a raft (like Noah's ark in Genesis 6-8) and go to see if there are other mammals. Note that none of these things actually exist in the world anymore. Something has gone horribly wrong with the creation story. Everything has come to an end.

  • Consider how Hamm describes his situation: "Infinite emptiness will be all around you" (1.379). This sounds a lot like how Genesis 1:2 describes the universe before God created anything. ("And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.") It's as if the creation story is moving in reverse.

  • Now, this all comes to a head at the end of the play, when Hamm gradually casts his different possessions away from himself and says that it is "good" each time that he does so. One can't help but notice that this echoes God's words in Genesis 1, in which God creates elements of the earth and following each creation, "God saw that it was good."
In the face of the apocalypse, Hamm is trying to un-make the world, to undo God's work; existence, for the characters in Endgame, is suffering, and Hamm works with symbolic gestures to try to bring it all to an end.

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