Study Guide

Happy Days Perseverance

By Samuel Beckett

Perseverance

WINNIE

—no no—mustn't complain—so much to be thankful for— (1.1)

We're going to go out on a limb and suggest that Winnie's perseverance is a direct result of her ability to ignore the situation she finds herself in. How's that for a double-edged sword?

WINNIE

the happy day to come when flesh melts at so many degrees and the night of the moon has so many hundred hours. That is what I find so comforting when I lose heart and envy the brute beast. (1.7)

First of all, who is the brute beast? Could it be God? What does it mean that Winnie and Willie persevere only to look forward to a day that sounds ultimately painful and miserable? It's almost as though Winnie is able to persevere only because she knows death will one day come.

WINNIE

Days perhaps when you hear nothing. But days too when you answer. (1.7)

For Winnie, getting Willie to respond is a small victory, though considering her predicament, communication could be said to be a triumph in itself. Plus, pairing a negative thought with a positive is a sure fire away to not get stuck thinking about all the doom and gloom in your life. Winnie really is quite the eternal optimist.

WINNIE

That is what I find so wonderful, that not a day goes by—to speak in the old style—without some blessing—in disguise. (1.9)

A blessing in disguise? It's hard to see where Winnie is coming from. All the pain, the heat, the fact she's buried in the earth, where is the gift in that? We're thinking she's in some serious denial.

WINNIE

Bless you Willie I do appreciate your goodness I know what an effort it costs you... (1.23)

In this world, how hard is it to be good and how much effort is required for some one to be good?

WINNIE

How can one better magnify the Almighty than by sn*****ing with him at his little jokes, particularly the poorer ones? (1.29)

Beckett's characters are often put in grueling situations. In fact, most of the time it seems like the easier option is to accept defeat, and yet, they persevere. How do they do it? One way is by laughing at their own situation. Beckett's characters are aware of the joke that is life, and in accepting the absurdity they are able to persist.

WINNIE

... cast your mind forward, something tells me, cast your mind forward, Winnie, to the time when words must fail—and do not overdo the bag. (1.29)

What does Winnie mean by "do not overdo the bag" (1.29)? If the bag offers her the tools she needs to persevere, is it possible to do overdo them? Do they lose their meaning if used too often? Something tells us they might. This quote is Beckett's way of reminding us that even our coping mechanisms will begin to fail us if we rely on them too often.

WINNIE

You'd think the weight of this thing would bring it down among the... last rounds. But no. It doesn't. Ever uppermost, like Browning. (1.29)

It seems like the revolver has a life of its own, or at least it doesn't follow the rules of gravity. If it's always at the top—always present. Yikes. The challenge to say no must be hard, but Winnie perseveres. She insists on saying no to the easy way out.

WINNIE

Bow and raise the head, bow and raise, always that. (1.31)

This is Winnie's ritual of determination—it's almost mechanical and almost devoid of emotions, and yet, somehow it's also reassuring. It's also similar to the motions taken when praying.

WINNIE

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

Sure, Winnie. We believe you—whatever butters your biscuit. If it were us in that mound, we'd be ripping our hair out by now.

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