Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525
This is one of Samuel Beckett’s intellectually and perversely teasing monologues about existence, which are quite common in his later work. As the unnamed narrator considers what he should do, he seems to be trying to prove his own reality by constructing a story that he keeps chopping and changing. It may be a story of a journey, out and back, that takes place in the spring. There is to be no serious action, so the voice assures itself that there is nothing to fear. Nevertheless, there is a constant sense of anxiety and reluctance involved. The voice decides to be the character in the story, and there is a sense that it is to be a male character, an old man, cared for by a nanny called Bibby.
The narrator faces the problem of how to describe himself, perhaps with the help of memory, although he admits that he cannot remember much, so he abandons that idea. He will instead write of the future. As an example of that method, he thinks about how sometimes at night he says to himself that on the morrow he will put on his dark blue tie with the yellow stars. This thought seems to upset him, but he hurries on with his proposed action and decides to be accompanied by an old naval veteran, who may have fought under Admiral Jellicoe in the British navy in World War I. There is considerable gritty detail about this proposed companion, and about the narrator’s physical state. The veteran’s lungs are bad, and the narrator himself suffers from a prostate condition, which he alleviates in unpleasant detail. There is a sense that what he is saying is not simply being made up, but, in fact, actually occurred in the past, as numerous minor acts in his characters’ lives are recorded with tangible details. The narrator imagines spending time with his companion trying to keep warm, and their pleasure in betting on horses and, occasionally, on dog races.
The narrator thinks for a moment of going alone, but reconsiders and decides to take his old friend, whom he calls Vincent, with him. He spends some time imagining what it would be like to start off with Vincent stumbling along behind him. However, this consideration of how to make something of himself outside his loneliness fails, and he abandons the idea of making his trip with Vincent.
He tries again, thinking about how to describe himself physically, and concludes that he might find it easier just to be a head, rolling along, but with some sort of leg to deal with the hills, starting out from Duggan’s (which may be a name for a Dublin betting shop) on a rainy spring morning. The voice admits that it is all for naught—that none of this exists, that his attempt to make flesh of his plight of being nothing but a voice fails him. He is reduced to his state of seeming nothingness, in which nothing will happen. There will be no departure or stories about tomorrow, and the voices he seems to hear have “no life in them.”