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Endgame | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Endgame | Symbols



While the four characters in Endgame confront the end of their lives, the specter of youth surfaces to unsettle them. Youth represents hope in the play, although it is most often hope denied. Hamm tells of the boy he saved, and surely that father had hope for a better life for his son. But if the boy was Clov, he hasn't fared well. And even if the boy was not Clov, little hope exists in Hamm's bleak world.

As Clov looks out the window, his report that he sees a boy, a "potential procreator," seems to remind Hamm of the boy he saved long ago. The boy outside the window is in the same position as the boy from Hamm's past: "If he exists he'll die there or he'll come here," Hamm explains to Clov. Hamm quickly announces he no longer needs Clov. If Hamm is hoping for a new servant to abuse, his hope is likely unfulfilled when Clov takes no action to save the boy (if he really is out there).

Hamm's Chair

Hamm is confined to an "armchair on castors," which represents his captivity and dependence on Clov. Unsuccessful in moving himself with the gaff (a stick with a hooked end), Hamm needs Clov if he is to have any change at all in his life. He orders Clov to push him around the room, to the windows, and back to the exact same spot in the precise center of the room. Hamm's chair also represents Clov's captivity, as he is bound out of obligation to push Hamm whenever Hamm demands. The sameness of their lives—Hamm's inability to move, Clov's enslavement to Hamm—is exemplified by the chair.

As a theatrical element, Samuel Beckett uses Hamm's chair to restrict the actor and add to the misery. To perform for hours without being able to move anything except your upper body while also appearing blind is difficult. Traditionally, expression in acting depends on speaking, movement, and vitality. In Endgame Beckett interns the actor in a chair which is very difficult to move. Hamm's attempt to use the gaff to move and pull himself around the room is unsuccessful. Hamm's chair is his prison as well as the actor's.


Darkness in Endgame contributes to the play's atmosphere of dreariness, emptiness, and desolation. Clov describes the scene outside the windows as "gray, light black from pole to pole." Hamm asks, "Is it light?" Clov replies, "it isn't dark." A gray darkness, not black and not light, is a fitting emblem for the crisis of action faced by the characters. They want to end but lack the resolve to change their circumstances. They are not dead but are hardly living. The color that best represents this middle ground of existence is gray.

Darkness in the play also represents death. When Clov is in the kitchen he says, "I see my light dying." He also cruelly reminds Hamm that Mother Pegg died of darkness after Hamm denied her oil for her lamp. As the play draws to an end, Clov reflects on his life: "I say to myself that the earth is extinguished, though I never saw it lit." Clov's musing suggests the world has been and always will be shrouded in empty darkness, incapable of sustaining life worth living.

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