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Course Hero, "Endgame Study Guide," June 29, 2017, accessed December 11, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/.

Endgame | Hamm's Story | Summary

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Summary

Hamm wants to tell his story, but being the ultimate actor he needs an audience. He makes Clov wake Nagg, who does not want to listen to Hamm but agrees after Hamm promises to give him a treat. Hamm tells a story about the past when he was wealthy and not confined to a chair. In Hamm's story he is decorating on Christmas Eve when a man comes begging for help. The man wants to send for his son, a boy, and Hamm finally agrees. As Hamm describes the abject behavior of the beggar, Clov bursts in exclaiming there is a rat in the kitchen.

Nagg is denied his treat and proceeds to describe a sliver of Hamm's childhood. Nagg explains that when Hamm was a tiny boy, he called for his father when he was frightened of the dark. Nagg and Nell allowed Hamm to cry, and then moved him "out of earshot" so they "could sleep in peace." Nagg calls for Nell but gets no response, so he slinks back into his bin.

Left to themselves again, Hamm and Clov resume their dysfunctional dialogue. In a lull in the conversation Hamm angrily prompts Clov to "keep going!" A few moments later it is Clov who urges Hamm, "Keep going, can't you, keep going!" Clov checks on Nagg and Nell and finds Nell has died and Nagg is crying.

Analysis

This section provides key details about Hamm's life and some of the forces which might have shaped who he is. The image of Hamm as a child crying helplessly in the dark for parents who ignore him is deeply troubling. In Endgame there is little sense of a past which gives meaning to the present, so the audience should be wary of using Nagg's anecdote to explain Hamm's current hardened behavior. However, Nagg's recollection does contribute to the play's cruel and nightmarish tone, whether believable or not.

It is also tempting to use Hamm's memories of the beggar and boy he saved to construct a cause-and-effect relationship between Hamm and Clov. The implicit message is Clov is the boy, which is why Clov stays in spite of Hamm's abuse. But like most of the play, these connections are not clear. The characters' emotions and actions seem to be rooted in a past, yet Beckett refuses to explicitly connect history to the present.

Hamm and Clov's increasingly desperate dialogue pushes the theatricality of the play to the foreground. The desire to "keep going" springs from Hamm and Clov's need to live—as long as they keep going, they are not dead—but also from Hamm and Clov as characters to keep the play alive. As long as there is dialogue the final curtain will not fall.

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