Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Aging

Mrs. Rooney is a stand-in for all older adults in this play. The various forms of transportation she waits for are each metaphors for passage into a stage closer to death, with each one being a larger and faster vehicle. When they are eventually reunited, she and her husband, who is blind, discuss death and their difficulties at length. The husband's intense irritation with children can be seen as a form of jealousy, a resentment at their spryness and the long futures ahead of them. The title points to this theme as well—people "fall" into nothingness as they age, increasingly undervalued by society and then moved into death.

The Pointlessness of Life

Much like Beckett's other plays, this play is premised on the existential idea that life is boring, senseless, and full of waiting. Mrs. Rooney waits for the train, and as she waits for the train, she waits for other people. When she interacts with other people who approach her, however, she is irate and has the urge to estrange herself from them. She is constantly moving between wanting connection and wanting solitude, the classic existential debate. As she is without children and alone whilst looking for her husband, her loneliness is especially visible.

Human Agency

The focus on human desire and the struggle to fulfill that desire is central to Mrs. Rooney's journey. She is waiting for much of the play, wondering about the train and demanding answers. Feeling out of control causes her much anxiety and, eventually, rage. She continues on in this way as others approach her and determine the course of her journey, while she continues to wait. Her struggle symbolizes the lack of agency in general for people, who must wait for external circumstances to determine the course of their lives and their deaths. She also does not seem to suspect her husband's role in the death of the child and the lateness of the train, suggesting that she is limited not only by time and space but also by knowledge. In keeping with Beckett's long tradition of absurdist plays, Mrs. Rooney has a void of options available to her.

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