Marxism and Existential Nihilism: An Analysis of Political Intention in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame

Marxism and Existential Nihilism: An Analysis of Political Intention in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame

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Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is a complex analysis of politics in a seemingly apolitical and empty world. As Hamm and Clov inhabit the aftermath of Marxism, they display characteristics of the bourgeoisie and proletariat respectively, but only retain them so they can define themselves as something. The work implicitly argues- through the setting, and by defining Hamm and Clov as the bourgeoisie and proletariat- that political platforms are simply human rationalizations in futile opposition to a meaningless world, pointing towards Beckett’s ideological message of existential nihilism.
The setting of Endgame suggests that it occurs in end of a Marxist cycle, where it will not begin again. The inferences to the natural world play an important part in this: “It won’t rain,”(Beckett 54, 552) and Hamm can only dream of “those forests” (Beckett 27, 551) that would serve as natural capital to reinvigorate the business cycle. By Clov’s admission, the outside is dead and grey “from pole to pole”(Beckett 534, 558). All of the references to the idea that “nature has forgotten [Hamm and Clov]” (Beckett 171 553) mean that the materialism at the heart of Marxism lies unfulfilled. Marx stated in his Communist Manifesto that “the oppressor and oppressed, [stand] in constant oppositions to one another, [and the cycle would be] ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” (15) The latter has occurred because in Beckett’s world, there is neither the means to continue production, nor the life to sustain it. If Marxism is based on dialectic materialism - that is the notion that society is based on the push and pull between who owns the basic means of production- Beckett informs th...


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...ession, Hamm and Clov act the class roles of bourgeoisie and proletariat though it defies meaningful progress. Through this Beckett implies that the political systems we create are nothing more than an attempt to stave of the nothingness that really exists. More of the play could be analyzed regarding the delusion of Marxism, especially with regards to the characters of Nagg and Nell. Further study might include also the consideration of the authors time period and how historicism is tied into the meaning of the play.



Works Cited
Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Ed. William B. Worthen. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. 551-71. Print.
Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin. The Essential Left: Four Classic Texts on the Principles of Socialism. 7th. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1981. 15-21. Print.

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