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Oh the sorrow

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.

Works Cited:

Beckett, Samuel. "Krapp's Last Tape," The Bedford Introduction to Literature.

Ed. Michael Meyers. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press,1993. 1627-


Source: Essay UK -

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