Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Approach of Death

Winnie and Willie are slowly approaching death, but Beckett makes this more dramatic through his stagecraft. Most explicitly, the mound Winnie is slowly being buried in is her grave, one that will continue to envelop her but never kill her. Willie, too, has a hole in the earth, but his is low to the ground and he can crawl in and out of it. He is reborn each time he emerges into the past he is trying to hold on to. For example, he reads a newspaper that announces job openings for youth. But just as Winnie cannot stave off death, so, too, does he fail. Willie's crawling, as Winnie points out, is not as good as it once was, and in his final crawl he is dressed as if for a funeral. His crawling, however, is just one of many rituals both practice, repetitive exercises that that draw them ever closer to death while purportedly keeping them active. Winnie's nail filing is a good example of this dual pull. Nail-filing is a mundane activity that seeks to return the nails to their normal length, but the nails also continue growing after the body dies, so it is a futile task—the nails will always grow back and signal the approach of death.