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Happy Days

Samuel Beckett

Important Quotations Explained

Act Two, Part Two

Key Facts

"Or gaze before me with compressed lips."

Winnie makes this comment several times, first in Act One, Part Two, after Willie repeats "Fear no more." It indicates her fear that one day she will not be able to speak, but will simply stare off into space. This silence, however, will not merely be a result of physical incapacity, but can occur if Winnie feels her words will "fail." If her conversation with Willie proves futile, in other words, her words may as well be kept inside her thoughts. Winnie understands that language is dependent on social usage for it to have meaning, that self-contained language carries no external meaning, and as Willie increasingly ignores her, her words come closer and closer to failing, and she comes closer to gazing before herself with compressed lips, even if she prattles on as before.

"things have a life Take my looking-glass, it doesn't need me"

Winnie says this at the beginning of Act Two. It highlights her dependency on her rituals. She needs them to fill her day, to busy herself as the long hours stretch ahead. But as performing a ritual depletes the performer, as with Winnie's song, the ritualistic object can survive on its own. It transforms the performer into a static existence but, not having a sense of time itself, the object does not mind the repetitive cycles of time. In fact, the objects control these cycles—the bell rings to wake Winnie and tell her when to sleep. Winnie's example of a looking-glass is particularly salient, as she often feels—and most likely wishes—someone is looking at her, hence her image of Shower and his fiancée.

"This will have been a happy day!"

Winnie says this in Act One, Part Three. The tense she uses to describe the happiness of the day—the future perfect—is one that, in all practicality, does not exist: it is in the no-man's-land of the past of some future point, and never really arrives. The tense suggests that Winnie is suspended between the past and future. She has memories of her life before the mound, but they are incomplete, and her short-term memory also has holes. In an unchanging world, there is no distinction between past and present, so memory is not necessary. If something does not exist now, such as her breasts, then it never has, and it becomes an "empty word." Her only expectations for the future are her rituals, which are less a future but more a recurring, static present.

"No better, no worse, no change No pain."

Winnie says this in Act one, Part One after she examines her damp hands. She alludes to the stasis in her world, both physical—her immobility within an environment than never changes—and emotional—the routinized existence she is stuck in through her rituals. She believes, as the quote indicates, that a static existence withholds pain and that, ultimately, it will stave off death, since nothing will ever change and she will not age. But Winnie is in deep pain and tries to cover it with her rituals—which end up aging her more than she believes, as their boring cycles drains life of its spontaneous energy. Things do change, but so minutely as to appear static, and Winnie and Willie are dying ever more slowly.

"wait for the happy day to come when flesh melts at so many degrees and the night of the moon has so many hundred hours."

Winnie says this in Act one, Part One. It is the first example of her eagerness for death, despite her general optimism about life, and perhaps it is cloaked in poetic language so she can mask her true desires. While she longs for an infinite life, she knows that the infinitude is impossible to deal with, that life is filled with empty hours. Some critics argue that time slows down as Winnie and Willie age, that the frequent pauses in the second act indicate a gradual approach to a death that will never arrive. If this is the case, then Winnie's ambivalent stance toward death is further complicated. As she hopes to prolong life but also wants it to end, she inches toward a death that is always inches out of her grasp.

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