Study Guide

Endgame Perseverance

By Samuel Beckett

Perseverance

HAMM
And yet I hesitate, I hesitate to…to end. Yes, there it is, it's time it ended and yes I hesitate to—
(he yawns)
—to end. (1.2)

Is this a sign of strength or weakness? How can "hesitation" amount to perseverance? Can one persevere without succeeding, simply by enduring long enough in the face of certain failure?

HAMM
I'll give you nothing more to eat.
CLOV
Then we'll die.
HAMM
I'll give you just enough to keep you from dying. You'll be hungry all the time. (1.32-34)

Does Clov have the ability to endure separate from Hamm? Are these lines a great admission of defeat or a determination to endure? Is it really endurance if someone else is forcing you to do it?

HAMM
We do what we can.
CLOV
We shouldn't. (1.111-112)

Are these positions that the two characters hold throughout the entire play? Does the fact that Hamm seems to not yet be ready to end whereas Clov does mean that Hamm's behavior is a sign of perseverance whereas Clov's is a sign of defeat?

CLOV
Why this farce, day after day?
HAMM
Routine. One never knows. (1.334-335)

Is Hamm here admitting that there is nothing driving them forward except inertia? Are there any points where he contradicts this viewpoint?

HAMM
And without going so far as that, we ourselves…
(with emotion)
…we ourselves…at certain moments…
(Vehemently.)
To think perhaps it won't all have been for nothing! (1.345)

Is Hamm's willingness to consider such possibilities in order to sustain himself a sign of strength or a sign of weakness? Are these the thoughts that keep Hamm going or is there something else? Is Hamm motivated by fear or hope?

HAMM
But beyond the hills? Eh? Perhaps it's still green. Eh? (1.405)

Is this really what motivates Hamm? Is there a greater form of endurance that considers in pushing forward while accepting complete uncertainty? Is endurance in the absence of hope still endurance?

HAMM
Do you not think this has gone on long enough?
CLOV
Yes!
(Pause.)
What?
HAMM
This…this…thing.
CLOV
I've always thought so. (1.475-478)

If Hamm and Clov do not what this thing is that has happened then how can they endure it? Do you have to understand something to be able to endure it? Is attempting to understand a form of endurance?

CLOV
You've got on with, I hope.
HAMM(modestly)
Oh not very far, not very far.
(He sighs.)
There are days like that, one isn't inspired.
(Pause.)
Nothing you can do about it, just wait for it to come.
(Pause.)
No forcing, no forcing, it's fatal.
(Pause.)
I've got on with it a little all the same. (1.590)

If you just have to wait for it come, then how can Hamm say that he has got along with his story just the same? Is this actually a sign of endurance or a sign of inertia? Is Hamm a mouth-piece or an actual speaker?

CLOV
Will it not soon be the end?
HAMM
I'm afraid it will.
CLOV
Pah! You'll make up another. (1.619-621)

How is storytelling equated with an act of endurance? Is it actually endurance or just an attempt to escape from the current situation? When there is no reason to hope, is endurance itself a sort of escape?

HAMM
Perhaps I could throw myself on the floor.
(He pushes himself painfully off his seat, falls back again.)
Dig my nails into the cracks and drag myself forward with my fingers.
(Pause.)
It will be the end and there I'll be, wondering what can have brought it on and wondering what can have…
(he hesitates)
…why it was so long coming. (1.687)

Why would the end arrive more suddenly if Hamm were to throw himself on the floor? Why does he imagine digging his nails into the cracks and not just lying there? Why does the end have to come with effort? Why is it something to be achieved?