Study Guide

Happy Days Happiness

By Samuel Beckett

Happiness

When a word is in a title you know it's a Big Deal. On the outset, we might think Happy Days is going to be a happy play about happy people in a happy land. Okay, maybe not that nauseatingly pleasant, but you get the drift. Yet, as soon as the play opens we find our lead characters stuck in an apocalyptic environment, which gives us our first real clue about the play—it's irony at its best. So, what exactly is Beckett trying to say about happiness? How does it relate to us? After all, happiness is all but expected in the USA—it's even in The Declaration of Independence. Happy Days forces us to question whether happiness is something that is so easily attainable, or if it's simply an illusion, something we choose to believe in because we are scared of the alternative.

Questions About Happiness

  1. Although it's not made clear whether Winnie is aware of "The American Dream" mentality, how much does Beckett's play comment on the impossibility of happiness?
  2. In Winnie's position, the smallest things—i.e., the contents of her purse—bring her comfort. What is the relationship between material objects and happiness and how does that reflect on our own modern-day culture?
  3. When we look at Winnie and Willie's situation, we are likely to judge them. How much do we view other people's satisfaction by what we value and what makes us "happy"?
  4. Winnie and Willie's relationship is at times loving and, at other times, abusive. How much is our happiness helped and hindered by other people?

Chew on This

Winnie and Willie are not happy "in the present"—they derive their happiness from the past or from material objects that distract them.

Winnie preserves her sense of "happiness" through ignorance and routine.

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