What is the significance of the inner landscape-room- and the outside setting in Endgame?

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brucepost | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Beckett once said that "we are born astride the grave." This sentiment is reflected in much of his work, where characters bemoan their existence, as they, and we, are bound to share the same fate, which is death. What then, is the reason for living? Endgame is a play that ponders that question in an excessively bleak world. Although nuclear holocaust is never given as the reason for the dead world still occupied by Hamm and Clov, it was at the time a logical fear and the most logical conclusion. Hamm and Clov could be said to be survivors, living their remaining days in a fallout shelter. There are two windows, one for the sea and one for the earth, both of which appear to be dead, or "corpsed," as Clov says. The two windows offer much opportunity for slapstick comedy, as they are high up on the wall and can only be reached with the use of a ladder. From what we know of the after-effects of a nuclear holocaust, as predicted by physicists and the like, in reality, Hamm and Clov would not have survived long enough to play out their comical scenario, and neither would Nagg and Nell. I share a belief with some that the inner landscape, the room in which the play takes place, represents the inner mind of Hamm as he slowly dies. The two windows are his eyes. If this is the metaphor Beckett intended, then it allows for the inhabitants of the play to be figments of his fevered imagination, and the entire play to be his last thoughts before dying. One could even suggest that Nagg represents his conscience, and, as such, berates him for his cruelty to others. We can all imgine that a dying man engages in a great deal of soul searching in his last moments, and whatever the cause of his death, his death is inevitable, and so why waste precious moments berating the cause. Another reason I like the inner mind supposition is because the world out side is only revealed through the witness and testimony of another. Hamm is blind and cannot see. Clov represents his imagination. Whether one suscribes to the setting as the inner mind of Hamm or not, the reality of the play is a  litany of final thoughts before death. The significance of the room is that the setting is as restrictive as is Hamm's condition. He is dying, he is confined to a wheelchair and he is blind. As an audience, we share his restrictions. We cannot leave the room and we cannot see the world outside it.

 

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