Study Guide

Sunset Limited Summary

By Cormac McCarthy

Sunset Limited Summary

Of Christians and Culture Junkies

The play begins shortly after Black has saved White, a professor, from committing suicide: He attempted to jump in front of a commuter train, the Sunset Limited of the title. To be clear, the two characters are identified by their respective races rather than their names. As they sit in Black's apartment, Black gradually tries to convince White that life is worth living.

They quickly get into religious territory after White asks Black if he thinks Jesus is present in the room (White's an atheist and finds religion to be ridiculous; Black's a Christian). This expands into a discussion about whether the Bible is the greatest book of all time or not, and proceeds from there.

They talk more about White's suicide attempt and about why White finds life meaningless. White's a kind of "culture junkie," as Black puts it, but he thinks books, art, music and all the things he used to believe in have lost their value. As he now sees it, the world is a place of suffering, and humans only delude themselves into sticking around.

On the flip side, Black's an optimist. Although he's had a rough life—both of his sons are dead, he was in jail for murder, and he's done a lot of bad things—he's much more positive than White. He tries to convince White that the key to happiness is loving your fellow humans and surrendering to a higher power. In his view, "life everlastin" is a condition you can experience in this life by getting in touch with the underlying soul shared by everyone.

A for effort, but White doesn't believe in the central importance of other people—he believes reason and the intellect are the most important things. They're what you need to follow, he thinks.

Battered but Not Defeated

At one point, they stop to eat dinner, with Black heating up leftovers—some authentic New York fusion food he made himself. This provides a short lull in the conversation before they get back to a more intense argument. After eating, it seems like White's regained some energy—he starts defending his nihilistic outlook with more zeal.

White eventually explains that he sees the world as a "forced labor camp" where the workers—meaning everybody—are gradually selected for execution, one by one. Eventually, Black can't think of any more arguments. White just won't give up on giving up, by his own admission; he thinks life is a howling void, and he just wants death, just wants to stop existing in order to minimize his pain. Finally, Black lets White out the apartment.

As White walks away—apparently to kill himself—Black says he'll return to the station and save him again. Black breaks down, crying, and asks God why he didn't give him the words needed to save White. But he reconfirms his faith and says he'll be true to God's word even if God never speaks to him again. The play ends with Black asking God, "Is that okay?"

  • Aftermath at the Beginning

    • As the curtain rises, the stage directions tell us that we're looking at the inside of a tenement apartment in an African-American ghetto in New York City.
    • The two main characters, identified by their respective races, Black and White, are seated at a table in Black's apartment. White is dressed in running clothes.
    • They begin talking about what happened this morning—Black suggests that he's supposed to help White, who is a University professor, in some way.
    • The Professor is skeptical, and doesn't think there's any reason for Black to help him, or any greater reason why he happened to land in Black's arms before he could kill himself. In his view, people do more harm than good by trying to help perfect strangers.
    • White offers to go, but Black tells him to stay. He asks him why he thought of killing himself today, if it is special for some reason. It happens to be White's birthday, though White denies that's significant.
    • White puts his coat on to leave, and Black comments that he has an unusual method of putting on a coat, which they then discuss briefly.
    • Black goes to get his coat, too, saying he'll follow White home if he tries to leave.
    • White doesn't want him to, and Black jokes about whether they let black people into White's apartment building.
  • The Living Dead

    • White asks Black why he thinks he needs to do this, and Black suggests that it was God's doing—Black caught White and prevented him from committing suicide for a reason.
    • White sits back down and asks Black if he thinks Jesus is in the room, to which Black says he knows Jesus is in the room.
    • They have a goofy little debate, where White implies that Black might be a person who needs mental-health treatment.
    • Say there was a person in the room named Cecil (for some reason) who thought White was naked and green with a tail—they'd totally consider locking him away (says White).
    • Black points out that Cecil actually isn't here to defend his point of view, so White's loading off his criticism of Black onto Cecil.
    • They talk more about Jesus. Responding to White's questions, Black says he can't see Jesus, but he hears him. Not actually, like, through his ears, but in his own head, spiritually speaking. White is confused.
    • Black says he only associates himself with ideas and thoughts that have "the lingerin scent of divinity."
    • He says he tried to live life without submitting to a higher power, but it only got him "Death in life."
  • Bible Banter

    • Black asks White if he's ever read the Bible, and it turns out he hasn't—not in full, anyway.
    • But White has read a lot of books—about a hundred a year for almost forty years. So there.
    • Black acts like he's having trouble multiplying this to get a total of four thousand, but he's totally joking. He's a actually a whiz at numbers (explaining that they're "the black man's friend"), and can multiply large quantities instantly, which he does for the professor's amusement. He says he had time to practice this ability in jail.
    • They get back to discussing the Bible. Black asks White how he could avoid reading the Bible, since it might be the greatest book of all time.
    • White states that War and Peace and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire might be candidates for the greatest book.
    • However, he finally has to admit that while The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a truer book than the Bible, it isn't a better one. He admits that the Bible might actually be the greatest book of all time.
    • When Black asks White why he's read so many good books but not the best one, White says he has to go.
    • Black's worried he might go back to the train station, though, so when White asks him if he has work to go to, Black explains that they won't mind if he doesn't show.
    • White is mystified by what happened at the train station earlier—he says he didn't see Black, and specifically made sure that no one was around.
    • Black cracks a joke about being a "big black angel" sent to save White, but White says that's not what he meant since he doesn't believe in angels.
  • Culture Junkie

    • Black asks White what he does believe in, and White says that he believes in "a lot of things"—specifically, cultural things: books, music, and art.
    • But White claims that these things have lost their value, since people stopped valuing them; he did, too, to some extent.
    • His education made the world "personal" to him, so when the world stopped valuing these cultural things, he decided to opt out and kill himself.
    • Black asks what the use of these things was if they couldn't save White from suicide, and White says that's a good question. He says that cultural things were a good deal of what prevented him from committing suicide before, but now he says he might not even believe in those.
    • White says he believes in the Sunset Limited—the train he tried to kill himself by jumping under. He believes in death. Western Civilization was destroyed during the barbarism of the Holocaust and World War II, in his view.
    • Black thinks this is pretty bleak and tells White that he's a challenge.
    • Again White says he should go, but Black asks him if he has any friends. He has one friend—not a close friend—at the university, who he gets lunch with now and then.
    • Black says that since this is the Professor's only friend, he must be his best friend. He asks White if he did anything to this guy, but the Professor denies it and says he's not his best friend. They're not really close and White didn't leave him a suicide note or anything.
  • Family Matters

    • White says he wants to leave and will promise not to kill himself, but Black tells him he's not buying it. So White asks if he's a prisoner, but Black says he was a prisoner before he got here.
    • Black asks White about his family, what his father did. White's dad was a government lawyer who died of cancer.
    • When White's mother asked White to come to his father's deathbed, he said he would, but never actually did.
    • Black's surprised by how terrible this is, and jokes about looking for the train schedule. White doesn't find this funny, and Black says he doesn't either; he says he sees wheels grinding away in White but he also sees good, true light in him, too.
    • The conversation turns to Black's life and family. White asks him what he was in prison for, and as it turns out, it was murder. Black's also been married, but doesn't want to talk about it or share jailhouse stories.
    • He had two sons, but they're both dead now, along with most of the people he's known or been close to in his life.
    • Black explains that while he's stopped leading a life of crime and trouble, he's still surrounded by it, trying to help the people who are in it. White asks why, but Black says he's not ready to know that yet.
  • Missing the Magic

    • Black tells more about his life—how he lets junkies crash on his couch and steal his stuff. Hence, he owns as little as possible, but wants to get a reinforced bedroom door, so he can get something to listen to music with and lock safely in there.
    • White says this is a horrible place full of horrible people who aren't worth saving, and says living here would be a horrible life.
    • Obviously, Black disagrees, though he admits it's a challenge—which he likes. Starting a ministry in prison was a challenge, too, he says, since some of the guys who joined just wanted it on their resume so they could get parole. Yet, strangely enough, a lot of them did really believe in God.
    • Again, White says he needs to go, and asserts that Black doesn't need him here and just doesn't want to feel responsible if White kills himself.
    • Black says that seems like the same thing as needing him here, and asks him if he ever had a day where everything seemed to fall into place. You know, a day that felt magical? White says he might have.
    • It seems to Black that White might not have had a day like that in awhile, and has started to feel that the world is long and dry and pointless. He's not having a bad day—he's having a "bad life".
    • White says he has to go, but Black is able to get him to stay by agreeing to tell a jailhouse story, even though he doesn't want to because White seems to have the wrong reasons for wanting to hear that kind of tale.
    • Black wants to put White in "the trick bag" (convince him to live) but wants to do it without White realizing it.
  • A Little Ultraviolence

    • The jailhouse story is brutal and graphic. Some fellow prisoner (Black uses the n-word) knifes Black with a switchblade while he's waiting in line at the cafeteria, just because Black told him to watch it after the guy splashed beans on him. They guy also makes some horrible remark, prompting Black to turn around.
    • The fight escalates, and Black ends up hitting this guy in the head with the leg from a table, which has a screw in it. The screw keeps sticking in the side of the dude's head as Black beats him with it.
    • White asks what the guy said, and Black refuses to say. White also complains about Black using the n-word so much, but Black says that he recalls that there were a lot of people who that word seemed to fit in prison.
    • He continues his story: The guy's friend tries to gut Black with the dropped switchblade, so Black knocks the bad dude's buddy out with the table leg. The guards almost shoot him, but Black throws down the weapon. He lost about half his blood.
    • The bad dude survives, though he has brain damage and is missing an eye. He doesn't bother Black anymore.
  • Near Death Experience

    • Black almost dies—over two hundred eighty stitches are holding him together, and he's handcuffed and shackled to the infirmary's bed—but he hears a clear voice saying, "If it was not for the grace of God you would not be here."
    • White says that this sounds like the story of how the other guy became "a crippled one-eyed half-wit" so Black could find God. Black concedes that might be one way of looking at it, if only to keep White interested and get him in the "trick bag," as he says.
    • White says Black could've just not listened to the voice, but Black says that God wouldn't have spoken to someone who wasn't going to listen to him.
    • Black says White's probably thinking that Black thinks he (White) is in a low enough place to be susceptible to the same sort of conversion, but only God can know that and Black knows he (Black) is not God.
    • The Professor wants to know why Black and other believers can't accept that some people just don't believe in God. Black says he does accept that fact, but he also can't sit back and watch people commit suicide or harm themselves and not do anything. The Bible says to help.
  • Toilet Humor

    • Black asks White what he has against being happy. White says he thinks happiness is ridiculous—no one's really happy, it goes against the human condition. We're made for suffering.
    • Black says that happiness might not even be meaningful if you didn't have some suffering to compare it to. You can be in pain and still be happy. White doesn't think that makes sense, and Black jokingly acts like he's stunned by this rebuttal.
    • Again, White changes the subject and asks if Black has anything (booze) to drink.
    • Black says he doesn't. He used to be a drinker but he quit; most of his friends died from drinking or "reasons not too far from drinking." In fact, one of his friends, not too long ago, got run over by a taxi—he was drunk and going to get more booze.
    • Black isn't lecturing White on drinking, but he tells him a story about how Evelyn, a girlfriend of Black's buddy Redge, once irritated all the guys they were drinking with by hiding the whiskey bottle. She wanted it all to herself.
    • Redge asks her and she pretends she's too drunk to talk straight, so finally, Redge gets in her face and imitates her babbling noises and she admits she hid it in the toilet.
    • White thinks that's funny. Black explains that drunks aren't worried of dying from drinking but from running out of whiskey beforehand.
  • Badmouthing the Big Man

    • Black says that a drunk only thinks he wants whiskey—then he asks White what the drunk really wants, but White says he doesn't know. Black claims that the drunk wants what everyone actually wants: to be loved by God.
    • Of course, White denies that he wants to be loved by God. Black says that's what the drunk thinks, too. White says he doesn't think a glass of whiskey can solve his problem—only the Sunset Limited can cure what ails him. Drunks and junkies seem to lack a yearning for God, in his opinion.
    • Black says that's because God himself is lacking in those situations—if God was introduced into their lives in some genuine way, they wouldn't have these problems.
    • He went to a couple A.A. meetings, but he felt there wasn't enough God there, which he realized must be true for a lot of things. White says he thinks the idea of God is "just a load of crap."
    • Black humorously acts like he's shocked by this blasphemy; he says he doesn't think this is an evil thing to say, although White must think it is.
    • The fact that White doesn't believe in God is the biggest fact about him in Black's view, but he knows it can be cured.
    • God probably just feels badly for people who think he doesn't exist, says Black—like a person would if someone told them they didn't exist. In his case, God had to speak to him directly, which is something he can do for anybody. Then Black jokes about what White must think about him, portraying himself as some sort of crazy down-home preacher.
  • Heresy!

    • White says he needs to go and offers to pay Black three thousand bucks. Black refuses.
    • White asks Black if he really believes God intended this to happen.
    • Black explains that for someone who really believes, you reach "the well of belief" and don't have to look further—your faith is (more or less) confirmed—but the unbeliever has to get up and try to unravel the world with his or her own intellect, figuring out what's really real or not.
    • White asks Black if he believes in the literal truth of the Bible, and Black says probably not, noting that he doesn't believe in original sin. Instead, he thinks people start off basically good, and evil comes to them from wanting things they're not supposed to have.
    • Black says he (himself) might be a heretic, but not more than what a person ought to be. He also considers himself a questioner—someone who wants the truth—but not a doubter, a.k.a. someone who doesn't believe in the existence of truth.
    • Answering more of White's questions, Black explains that he doesn't think someone even needs to read the Bible to be saved. It's a guide for the lost and sick at heart, so a person who is complete or sinless doesn't need it.
  • Playing the Dozens

    • Black asks White why the Bible talks more about the wrong way than the right way. White has to think about this and eventually says, "the dialectic of the homily presupposes a ground of evil."
    • Black reacts to this with amusement before asking what it means. White explains that since there's only supposed to be one true path, but tons of wrong ones, the Bible focuses on cautioning or condemning these missteps.
    • Black is amused, joking that White could go on television—White thinks he's making fun of him, but Black says he isn't.
    • White asks Black why Black keeps calling him "honey." Black says it's a Southern expression meaning you're among friends and should relax and stop worrying.
    • White wants to know about more of Black's heresies, but Black refuses to tell him, implying White just wants something negative to latch onto and shore up his unbelief.
    • White says he needs to go, yet again, but Black points out that White wants to go whenever "the dozens" gets intense.
    • He then has to explain that the dozens is a kind of contest from the African-American community where two guys insult each other and the first one to get mad loses.
    • White says he doesn't understand, and Black claims this is because he's white.
    • In Black's view, White could only win at the dozens—even if they're just talking and not really playing the game—and leave Black's apartment if he didn't want to leave anymore (i.e. didn't want to kill himself).
  • Everlasting Life in the Palm of Your Hand

    • They talk more about the dozens, and Black points out that insulting someone's mama would be a typical way of trying to win the dozens (though Black himself doesn't play).
    • The Professor doesn't understand why Black lives where he does and how he can feel safe—he seems too smart for that—but Black claims (not entirely seriously) that he's just a dumb guy from Louisiana who doesn't know anything outside the Bible.
    • They argue about whether the people in this ghetto can be helped or saved. White thinks it's a moral leper colony and finds it ridiculous that Jesus would want to help people in this spiritually vacant world.
    • Black admits he's never stopped anyone from taking drugs, but knows good is needed here; he has to be his brother's keeper.
    • Black says you can have everlasting life if you stop holding your brother's sins against him. Everlasting life, in his opinion, is something you can have in this life. It's a way of being in the world mercifully, taking your brother in your arms regardless of what he's like and trying to help him. But White won't do this, because it's not just.
    • White claims he doesn't think in those terms, but then admits that there's some truth in what Black says. Then he says he has to go.
    • Black keeps him around by offering him a cup of coffee. Black doesn't want him going off into the night—even though it's day, as White points out. But Black means "night" metaphorically.
  • Searching for Constituents

    • Black asks White what's driven him to suicide, and White says he doesn't think anything's wrong with him, per say; he's just different. In fact, he's been in group therapy with other suicidal people and never felt any kinship with them.
    • Black asks if he feels any kinship with other professors, but White says he loathes them and they loathe him back. Go team. Black implies that White might dislike them because he dislikes himself, a subtle message White picks up on.
    • White also says he tried medication for suicidal depression and it didn't do anything for him.
    • Black continues trying to see if they can think of any "constituents"—a.k.a. possible friends or fellow travelers—White might have. But White denies being a member of any group.
    • Black imagines how the train or subway platform might be a normal place for most commuters, but for one (suicidal) person it can be the edge of the universe.
    • They talk about how White rides the subway every day and what he thinks of the other travelers around him.
    • White says he doesn't think about them or speak with them. But Black convinces him to admit that he does curse them under his breath, since he doesn't like what they're doing or they're in his way or whatever—maybe around five times a day.
    • Black figures out that this would add up to around two thousand times a year, which over twenty years of commuting, would add up to forty thousand curses on the heads of strangers.
    • Black thinks this probably has something to do with the shape White's in. White denies this assessment, though: He just doesn't like people, but he wouldn't hurt anybody else, even though he would hurt himself. Black, however, is somewhat skeptical.
  • That Forever Thing

    • Black offers to make some food. White says he doesn't need to eat, but Black goes ahead anyway, noting that once you break bread with someone, you moved to a new level of friendship.
    • Black says that what's driving the Professor to suicide might be what he does believe, as opposed to what he doesn't.
    • Then he asks White if he thinks about Jesus. White acts exasperated and asks how Black knows he (White) isn't Jewish.
    • But White isn't Jewish. Black acts relieved, and when White asks if he has something against Jews, Black explains he's just pulling his chain.
    • The point of all this, says Black, is that there isn't really such a thing as white people or black people or Jews or any other category—deep down at the bottom of the mine, there's only the pure gold, that "forever thing" (95) that forms the essence of everyone. It's what keeps people from jumping in front of the Sunset Limited.
    • When White asks if this is the same thing as Jesus, Black says it basically is—it's just Jesus understood as the gold at the bottom of that mine.
    • It's a Jesus who exists in and as humanity, since Black thinks that Jesus can't be every person without every person being Jesus. He admits this is sort of a heresy, but it's not as bad as believing people are no different than rocks, which is what White seems to believe.
  • Fusion Food

    • White says this isn't what he believes—he believes in "the primacy of the intellect," the idea that reason comes first. He also believes in the primacy of the Sunset Limited, in the importance of dying, not existing.
    • But, under Black's questioning, White says he doesn't believe in the primacy of his fellow humans.
    • Black sets the table for dinner, bringing plates and a loaf of bread, and noting that White's a tough case.
    • He says that White will be okay if he can stick to the quest of his own life, the road he's set for himself (beyond committing suicide). But White doesn't get it.
    • Black says grace and thanks God for keeping White among the living.
    • They start to eat and White says he really likes the food. It's like chili, but it has bananas, mangos, rutabagas, and molasses in it. Yum. Black explains he learned to cook it here in New York's ghettoes and that it's influenced by numerous cultures.
    • As they eat, Black talks about how French chefs like to cook with all the things nobody likes—tripe, brains, etc.—because it's a challenge. Poor people do the same thing, just instead of for fun, because they can't afford the stuff people typically want.
    • White takes seconds and they banter a bit about drinking. Black isn't averse to drinking, say, one glass of wine on occasion, but he's not really a drinker. White points out that Jesus drank wine and Black says that's true, but he wasn't hiding it in any toilets.
    • White asks Black what the worst thing he's ever done is. Black says he won't tell him, though, since he'd run out the door hollering—it's worse than bludgeoning that dude. He confessed it once to a friend of his, who was a "Man of God."
    • White wonders if Black is curious about the worst thing White's ever done, but Black says he was there when White was doing it (trying to die).
  • Poison Knowledge

    • They finish eating. White says Black sees everything in black and white, and Black says it is black and white.
    • Black says he doesn't try to understand the world or understand God, either; he just tries to understand what God wants from him. He doesn't disagree that he might have a narrow worldview, but it's kept him from feeling like killing himself.
    • Black used to believe in the "primacy thing," but when he was chained to the infirmary bed in prison, he finally gave it up. He asked God to help him, and God did.
    • There's a long silence, and then Black says that's really his story. He tries to follow Jesus and catch himself when he slips back to thinking he's in charge.
    • White still finds Black's perspective nonsensical—he doesn't think it amounts to a view of things.
    • Black asks what White would do if Jesus spoke to him, and White says he'd check himself into an insane asylum, even if what Jesus said made sense.
    • Black thinks that's a pretty bad case of believing the intellect always needs to come first. White says he's always gone his own way, quoting Martin Luther: "Ich kann nicht anders." ("I can do nothing else.")
    • Leading off from this German quotation, they talk about culture and education. White says the Germans gave a lot to civilization… but then they also gave Hitler. Oops. White says he takes it that Black thinks too much knowledge and education make people miserable.
    • Black says he didn't say that—White did.
    • White says that's the meaning of the Garden of Eden story and the whole biblical fall of man: Knowledge (eating from the Tree of Knowledge) leads to destruction. From the God point-of-view, says White, knowledge is vanity or it makes you think you're smarter than the devil.
  • Pocket Trick

    • Black thinks this is pretty good, but White goes further and says that reality really is as dark and desperate as you can imagine. Human evil and folly run rampant, and nothing improves; humanity will probably exterminate itself soon.
    • However, Black says he can relate to these kinds of thoughts—he's still thinking about them, in fact. White says he's stopped thinking about them, though (because he's finished with humanity).
    • Black suggests that White might be wrong, but White doesn't think so.
    • Black reads a (fictional) report from the newspaper out-loud about how a man committed suicide in the subway station, and bystanders reported that his last words were, "I am right." It's like White's obituary.
    • White says he views the other commuters as people living in the same abysmal hole as he does; he doesn't think he's special. But Black says he doesn't see why White can't accept the fellowship of other desperate, suicidal people—you know, at least feel some brotherhood there.
    • Black says he thinks White views himself as having better reasons than them for killing himself—intellectual, world-class reasons—and he asks if White's education might be driving him to suicide. But first he tells him to wait.
    • Black writes something down and hides it in his shirt pocket. White says, in answer to Black's question, "That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard." Black takes out the paper and gives it to White. It says the same thing he just said: "That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard." Boo ya.
  • Never Gonna Give It Up

    • Black suggests that White can't see the light around him because he himself is the shadow that's blocking it out. Maybe he'd feel less like killing himself if he could just walk away from everything he has in his life and start over completely… White says he can't.
    • They talk about why people kill themselves. White claims he doesn't know why other people kill themselves, but his own reasons have to do with losing the ability to pretend the world's okay. It comes down to a loss of make-believe.
    • Black says this means that if they could educate suicidal people with White's more elegant reasons they could kill themselves more happily. White thinks this is facetious, and Black says it is.
    • Black says the only alternative to loving your brother is despair and death. White says that doesn't mean anything to him, and point out that he sees the world as a forced labor camp, where each prisoner waits for execution.
    • White still just wants to die—he says he only thinks about getting rid of pain. Being run over by a train shouldn't hurt since the brain won't be able to process it in time. White says he can't compare his life to Black's.
    • Black can't figure out what to say to get the Professor to stay. He feels like he's "diggin a dry hole," at this point.
    • White's sorry not to be grateful to Black for his time, but he really wants to get going.
    • Black asks White if he would wake up without wanting to kill himself if he could, and White says it depends on what he would have to give up.
  • The Trick Bag Opens

    • Black is frustrated because he says he can't understand it: Death is never about nothing, and he wishes he could find the words that would reach White's heart.
    • Black mocks White's idea that his reasons for committing suicide are somehow loftier than other people's—he wants to get him in the "trick bag."
    • White says the "trick bag" seems to be a way of just sitting around and sharing the misery of humanity for no reason.
    • Black claims that White's too smart for him; he's able to keep twisting around intellectually, so nothing sticks. The junkies Black normally deals with aren't close to committing suicide—they just want another fix—and he can't understand what White won't give up.
    • White says it took a lot of work to get where he is, so maybe he just won't give up giving up.
    • He says it's not the fact that everything is temporary that bums him out (although everything does have an expiration date), it's that he feels like his courage in the face of life has become meaningless. It's not getting him anywhere, and going on isn't doing anything for him, so death is the only option left.
    • Black asks White what the worst thing is that ever happened to him, and White claims it was Black rescuing him. Before that, though, it was probably hurting someone else.
    • But White says the only lesson to learn from that is not to get close to anyone.
  • Enter the Void

    • Black says the world is probably only as dark as you let it be. White says that's true, but he can't bring himself to believe in a "most excellent world" if he knows it doesn't exist.
    • Black says he really does believe in such a world, and taking the non-suicidal commuter train is what you've got to do to get there. You can meet people on the way who've been to dark places and can show you how to get back from them.
    • White says that's not going to happen—he just wants to go.
    • Black doesn't know what to do. He tells White to try him, to say what he really thinks he understands about the world and what he really wants.
    • White says Black doesn't want to hear it, but goes ahead when Black tells him to: White yearns for death and total nothingness. He would never want to see, say, his own mother again, in the afterlife. He wants to be dead in the truest, most non-existent sense.
    • White thinks being aware of the futility of it all is the last step evolution brings people to. Everyone should, in his view, be suicidal if they're aware enough.
    • Black is incredulous, but White goes on, coldly saying that he doesn't believe in God and finds religion totally ridiculous. And he hates playing the village atheist in these debates. He could only find value in a religion that teaches one to prepare for and accept nothingness.
    • White says he wants no part of Black's fellowship of pain if it means enduring a universe of suffering, which only ends in non-existence. If his brother is his salvation, then White wants his brother damned in every shape and form—he sees himself reflected in others, he says, and what he sees is sickening.
  • Cuddling with Death

    • Black lowers his head and White apologizes; Black asks him how long he's felt this way, and White says his whole life. Everything he sees seems emptied of meaning—he doesn't want the company of any humans, all of whom are dangling meaninglessly in a void.
    • Black says he's still trying to help save White, that he still sees him as his brother.
    • White says this is his real job: He's a professor of darkness, and he needs to get going. Black wants him to stay, but he insists.
    • Black warns him about what's out there, but White says he knows what's out there and he's rushing to nuzzle Death's bony cheek.
    • White says that Black's God must have once had infinite possibilities for creating worlds, but his efforts have only ended in this horrible one (not that White thinks God exists). Maybe he (White) wants forgiveness, White confesses, but there's no one to get it from.
    • He demands that Black open the door, and Black does, undoing the chains and locks. White walks out.
    • Black calls after him, saying he'll be at the station in the morning, and that White didn't mean those words.
    • Black falls to his knees, almost crying, and he talks to God. He says that White didn't mean those words, and he asks God why God didn't give Black the words to help White.
    • Weeping, Black rocks back and forth. He says he'll keep God's word even if God never speaks again. He asks God if that's okay—and the play ends.