Study Guide

Happy Days Life, Consciousness, & Existence

By Samuel Beckett

Life, Consciousness, & Existence

WINNIE

World without end Amen. (1.1)

Winnie begins her day with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. If Winnie is as religious as she seems to be, then she probably believes in a Christian afterlife. Most strands of Christian religion believe in a heaven of some sort. How could her belief in a better hereafter help her in her day-to-day struggle?

WINNIE

guaranteed... genuine... pure... what? (1.1)

Throughout the play it seems like it's really important for Winnie to question what the writing on the side of the toothbrush means. Aside from serving as a simple distraction, could it be that she's also questioning the "what" of her existence? Could she be searching for something genuine and pure?

WINNIE

What is that wonderful line? Oh fleeting joys—oh something lasting woe. (1.1)

Winnie quotes the biblical character, Adam, from Milton's Paradise Lost, the first man on earth, is cast out of paradise. In other words, he goes from easy living to a hard-knock life. This kind of sounds like our protagonist, except she seems far worse off, yet somehow happier in her existence.

WINNIE

Oh the happy memories! (1.3)

A big chunk of what Winnie says is recollections of memories. Is she living retrospectively? Does the present reality not matter to her anymore? Is it really living if you're not present?

WINNIE

... that is what I find so wonderful, it all comes back. (1.7)

Does it, Winnie? Or does it all just fade away like everything else. We can't really say that memories do anything to actively change Winnie's life for the better, or that they make her existence any better. Maybe it'd be better if Winnie just focused on the here and now.

WINNIE

'Tis only human. Human Nature. Human weakness. Natural weakness. (1.7)

Beckett appears to be commenting on the fallibility of being human. In many ways, we are we designed to be weak. But if this is the case, how do you become strong?

WINNIE

Go back into your hole now, Willie, you've exposed yourself enough. (1.9.)

Maybe Willie is totally fine exposing himself, maybe that's something his wife needs to learn. This raises the question, is it better to be cautious in life or adventurous? Who would you rather be: Willie or Winnie?

WILLIE

[Violently] Fear no more! (1.22)

That's right, Shmoopers, our first quote from Willie. Unfortunately, this doesn't exactly count as an original thought, seeing as how Willie is repeating a section of a quote from William Shakespeare's Cymbeline. However, there is some added value in the fact that he repeats this particular section. Unlike Willie, Winnie is forever afraid of what is to come. Maybe that's why Willie seems so frustrated (no need to get violent, Willie, we get you). Could this quote be Willie's life motto?

WINNIE

The depths in particular, who knows what treasures. What comforts. (1.29)

Winnie is referring to the contents of her bag, but this quote could also be commenting on the potential for one's life. This is a classic case of Winnie's optimism covering over the cracks in her otherwise hard life. It also shows us that she does dream of the unexpected and its treasure trove of potential happiness.

WINNIE

I am weary, holding it up, and I cannot put it down. I am worse off with it up than with it down, and I cannot put it down. (1.31)

Again, Winnie is referring to one of her possessions (the parasol), but it seems as if she's also referring to the need to keep living and the need to stay positive. Then again, it also seems like she's trapped—trapped in a web of positive thinking, perhaps.

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