Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Happy Days

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Beckett’s two-act play Happy Days was written in English. The play opens (as described by Robert Brustein in his review in the New Republic on 2 October 1961) “to the accompaniment of a clanging alarm bell and a blinding flash of white light, on a woman buried up to her breasts in a barren mound of earth.” The woman is Winnie, a “hopeful futilitarian” who spends her days examining and chattering about a myriad of objects, including a revolver, that she pulls out of a large handbag and, “above all, trying to communicate with her incommunicable husband, Willie, an ancient who passes the time sleeping in a hole behind her mound when he is not by her side (but just beyond her vision) mumbling over the want ads and obituaries in his yellowing newspaper.”

The second act begins with Winnie immobilized by the earth now piled up to her neck. “Still attempting to amuse herself with memories and to bless even her most harrowing perceptions,” the play comes to an end as Willie tries in vain to reach the revolver, sliding instead down the mound as he whimpers Winnie’s name. She, believing Willie’s attempted suicide or murder to be a gesture of affection, cries out “this is a happy day. This will have been another happy day.”