Study Guide

Happy Days Happiness

By Samuel Beckett

Happiness

WINNIE

Another heavenly day. For Jesus Christ sake Amen. (1.)

Given the fact that she is buried up to her waist, Winnie is very ready to thank God for her predicament. Winnie assumes that this is what God has decreed to be her lot in life, and so, being the good Christian that she is, she happily accepts and tries to make the best of her situation. But what is there to be said about the idea that God helps those who help themselves? We could easily argue that Winnie (and not just a higher being) is responsible for her own happiness.

WINNIE

—ah well—no worse—no better, no worse—no change—no pain— (1.1)

There is no one definitive thing that is actively making Winnie happy here; it seems as if Winnie's happiness is dictated by an absence of positive and negative events. Winnie considers the absence of any change as a win-win situation, but is that true happiness or is it just plain old settling?

WINNIE

—ah well—can't complain—mustn't complain—so much to be thankful for— (1.1)

As the famous Monty Python song goes, we should concentrate on the positive things in life. How much is Winnie's predicament the result of her never examining what's wrong in her life? After all, we don't usually associate happiness with living in fear.

WINNIE

That is what I find so wonderful, that not a day goes by—to speak in the old style—hardly a day, without some addition to one's knowledge however trifling, the addition I mean, provided one takes the pains. (1.7)

We live in an ambitious world where material success is everything. That usually means success is equated with BIG houses, FAST cars, and LOADS of cash. And yet, Winnie takes obvious pleasure from educating herself in the little details, however small. How important are the little things to the foundation of anyone's happiness, and on that same note, how important are the big things?

WINNIE

That is what I find so wonderful. The way man adapts himself. To changing conditions. (1.31)

Winnie claims to find adaptability an admirable quality. In fact, much of her happiness relies on her ability to find happiness in hardly anything at all. At times it even seems as if Winnie is finding any little excuse to be happy. Is that her adapting what it means to be happy? Is happiness adaptable?

WINNIE

One cannot sing just to please someone, however much one loves them, no, song must come from the heart, that is what I always say, pour out from the inmost, like a thrush. (1.31)

Ah, singing in the shower, one of life's greatest pleasures. But what if someone forced you to sing? It probably wouldn't be as fun. Singing has to be something instinctive—something that comes from within…much like happiness, we might say.

WINNIE

I take up the little glass, I shiver it on a stone—I throw it away—it will be in the bag again tomorrow, without a scratch, to help me through the day. (1.31)

Winnie's certainty that her possessions will appear for her, again and again, is a comfort. We dread to think what would happen if they disappeared one morning. Is this active happiness or is she absently resigned to familiarity and routine?

WINNIE

Oh this is a happy day! This will have been another happy day! After all. So far. (1.33)

Winnie begins her thought with certainty that "it is a happy day" but then moves to use the future perfect tense, which implies that something will occur in the future. So which one is it, Winnie? Is it a happy day or will it be a happy day (sometime in the future)? How much of Winnie's happiness is based upon wishful thinking?

WINNIE

Just chance, I take it, happy chance. (2.1)

Given her appalling conditions, we can see why she might want to leave it up to fate. Does the serendipitous nature of chance give her hope?

WINNIE

Yes, those are happy days, when there are sounds. When I hear sounds. (2.1)

How much does Winnie rely on her senses to validate her happiness? And, more importantly, how accurate are those senses? After all, she is in the middle of nowhere, all alone (Willie doesn't really make much noise). How much of the sounds, which she claims make her happy, are self-created? And if that's the case, does that make them any less likely to produce happiness?

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