Study Guide

Happy Days Language & Communication

By Samuel Beckett

Language & Communication

WINNIE

—to speak in the old style— (1.1)

Does "the old style" remind Winnie of a time when words carried more meaning—of a time when they didn't fail? Kind of like how we talked more to one another (face-to-face) in the good old days and not through our fancy cellphones, Facebook, or Twitter. Remember kids: status updates don't exactly equal a conversation.

WINNIE

Running out. Ah well. Mustn't complain. What is that wonderful line? (1.1)

Here again we see that fascinating tug-of-war between the scarcity of words and Winnie's desperate need to find some words that will fill the gap. Her constant need to find the right words could also hint at Winnie's disappointment with the words she comes up with on her own.

WINNIE

That is what enables me to go on, go on talking that is. (1.7)

Is it the act of speaking that keeps Winnie alive? Or does the act of speaking just keep her talking for the sake of talking? After all, in Beckettland silence equals death.

WINNIE

... what could I do, all day long... Simply gaze before me with compressed lips. Not another word as long as I drew breath, nothing to break the silence of this place. (1.7)

This could be read as a description of what humans would look like without the ability to communicate. It seems like in Winnie's world, there is nothing if communication dies.

WINNIE

Is not that so, Willie, that even words fail, at times? What is one to do then until they come again? (1.9)

Willie seems to be doing just fine without words. Maybe he's just comfortable with the silence whereas Winnie always feels the need to fill the silence with words. Is his wordless existence the way forward?

WINNIE

Oh no doubt the time will come when before I can utter a word I must make sure you heard the one that went before... (1.23)

The validation that comes from being heard is crucial to Winnie's existence. The ability to communicate gives Winnie a sense of meaning—without it she's worse off than an animal; even animals can communicate.

WINNIE

Ah well what a joy in any case to know you are there, as usual, and perhaps awake, and perhaps taking all this in... (1.31)

We never know for sure whether Willie is taking everything in, but just the ability to communicate with him is a joy and, ultimately, a victory against silence (or, death).

WINNIE

Ah yes, so little to say... and the fear so great, certain days, of finding oneself... (1.31)

With such little stimulus to give her new thoughts and new words, Winnie regularly has to regurgitate old, familiar phrases. But if she's ever going to find meaning in her existence, she's going to have to comment on the life she lives now and get her mind out of the past. Or maybe the present is exactly what she's trying to avoid.

WINNIE

Pray your old prayer, Winnie. (1.37)

What is important about the reassurance that Winnie finds in "old" words? Is it safety and familiarity, or is she afraid that there is nothing truly new left to say?

WINNIE

What is that unforgettable line? (2.1)

What is the significance of the word "unforgettable"? Is it meant to signify the high quality of a quote or is it that Winnie just can't afford to forget it since she has so little to say that is fresh? This is also a perfect example of clichés being used to cover up moments where nothing useful can be said.

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