Oh the Sorrow...
During the 20th century, there was an evident disillusion and disintegration
in religious views and human nature due to the horrific and appalling events and
improvements in technology of this time, such as the Holocaust and the creation of
the atom bomb. This has left people with little, if any, faith in powers above or in
their own kind, leaving them to linger in feelings of despair and that life is an
absurd joke. From these times grew the Theater of Absurd. Here they attempted
to depict the very illogical and ridiculous life they were living. In comparison to
traditional characteristics of earlier plays, the plots are seemingly deficient, if not
sparse with little resolution. Yet despite this, these plays make very bold and
philosophical statements about life in the 20th century. The playwrights
indiscreetly utilize metaphoric and symbolic details to support their message. In
"Krapp's Last Tape," Samuel Beckett exploits such techniques in expressing his
own bleak and pessimistic view of the world.
In his middle years of his life, Krapp retained this rigid and anal retentive
nature. He kept these tapes in which he would constantly reevaluate his own life
and try to always improve it, using these tapes as "help before embarking on a new
retrospect" (1629). He had also stored these various tapes organized in boxes with
their location written in a ledger. Yet in his latter years, there is an apparent decay
of this regimental attitude. His very appearance is an indication of this decline.
He is described as wearing "Rusty black narrow trousers to short for him. Rusty
black sleeveless waistcoat. Surprising pair of dirty white boots. Disordered gray
hair. Unshaven. Very near-sighted (but unspectacled)," which is not the
description of an anal retentive person (1627). Also despite the ledger and the
boxes, he still cannot find the tapes which evidently have obviously become
disorganized over time. And in his ledger, he has made various notes about the
subject matter of tapes, but he fails to understand them. In addition, while
reviewing his last tape, his younger self begins to speak of his profound revelation
that has changed his life, but impatiently the elder Krapp forwards past it. His
goal of self-improvement has unmistakably been abandoned and replaced by an
uncaring and callous temperament. These remnants of his once fastidious nature,
further support the deterioration of his former self.
Beckett also bestows the use of color to further uphold his view on life. He
manipulates imagery of the color black to further intensify the mood of pessimism
and death. By the house on the canal, Krapp recollects of a "dark young beauty
with a black hooded perambulatory" (1630). Beckett describes this baby carriage
as being a "most funeral thing," resembling the lack of hope that baby has as if it
would better off dead (1630). This usage of color can also be seen when his
mother had passed away. At the very moment his mother was "all over and done
with," Krapp is sitting holding unto "a small, old, black rubber ball" that he had
been playing with a dog with (1630-1). For a moment, he considers keeping this
as a cherishable memento of his mother's death which he would "feel until his
dying day. But I gave it to the dog" (1631). He simply imparts these reminiscent
and sentimental thoughts of his mother to a dog, reflective of the relationship and
his feelings towards his mother.
Further use of color as symbolic imagery is seen with the various women
Krapp encounters in his life. As he attempts to find happiness in his various
relationships, he merely just falls further from this goal, which is represented in
the decline of color. During his youngest years, he is involved in a relationship
with Bianca, "a girl in a shabby green coat" which ends up failing (1630). He next
encounters a nurse "all white and starch," representing her purity and perfection
(1630). Though despite her beauty, she is unattainable for Krapp for she threatens
to a call a policeman. He is next in a relationship with Effe, who is not physically
described besides the scratch on her thigh. For Krapp, because of this flaw, she is
imperfect, therefore he cannot find any happiness with her. Then finally, he
resorts to Fanny, "a bony old ghost of a whore" (1633). Their relationship is not
even described, but is merely implied as purely sexual on Krapp's part. As the
colors disappear to nothingness so does his chances of acquiring any possible
Though Samuel Beckett does not yield any kind of complex profound plot,
he provide an intriguing and outstanding job of exploiting the details of imagery
and dialogue to express his despairing and cynical interpretation of the world.
Because of his emphasis upon the "trifles" of the play, he is able to reemphasize
and convincingly convey Krapp's disenchantment with his own life.
Beckett, Samuel. "Krapp's Last Tape," The Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Ed. Michael Meyers. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press,1993. 1627-
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