Krapp\'s Last Tape: Imagery in Color


During the 20th century, there was an evident disillusion and
disintegration in religious views and human nature due to the horrific and
appalling events and improvements in technology of this time, such as the
Holocaust and the creation of the atom bomb. This has left people with little,
if any, faith in powers above or in their own kind, leaving them to linger in
feelings of despair and that life is an absurd joke. From these times grew the
Theater of Absurd. Here they attempted to depict the very illogical and
ridiculous life they were living. In comparison to traditional characteristics
of earlier plays, the plots are seemingly deficient, if not sparse with little
resolution. Yet despite this, these plays make very bold and philosophical
statements about life in the 20th century. The playwrights indiscreetly utilize
metaphoric and symbolic details to support their message. In "Krapp\'s Last
Tape," Samuel Beckett exploits such techniques in expressing his own bleak and
pessimistic view of the world.
In his middle years of his life, Krapp retained this rigid and anal
retentive nature. He kept these tapes in which he would constantly reevaluate
his own life and try to always improve it, using these tapes as "help before
embarking on a new retrospect" (1629). He had also stored these various tapes
organized in boxes with their location written in a ledger. Yet in his latter
years, there is an apparent decay of this regimental attitude. His very
appearance is an indication of this decline. He is described as wearing "Rusty
black narrow trousers to short for him. Rusty black sleeveless waistcoat.
Surprising pair of dirty white boots. Disordered gray hair. Unshaven. Very
near-sighted (but unspectacled)," which is not the description of an anal
retentive person (1627). Also despite the ledger and the boxes, he still cannot
find the tapes which evidently have obviously become disorganized over time.
And in his ledger, he has made various notes about the subject matter of tapes,
but he fails to understand them. In addition, while reviewing his last tape,
his younger self begins to speak of his profound revelation that has changed his
life, but impatiently the elder Krapp forwards past it. His goal of self-
improvement has unmistakably been abandoned and replaced by an uncaring and
callous temperament. These remnants of his once fastidious nature, further
support the deterioration of his former self.
Beckett also bestows the use of color to further uphold his view on life.
He manipulates imagery of the color black to further intensify the mood of
pessimism and death. By the house on the canal, Krapp recollects of a "dark
young beauty with a black hooded perambulatory" (1630). Beckett describes this
baby carriage as being a "most funeral thing," resembling the lack of hope that
baby has as if it would better off dead (1630). This usage of color can also be
seen when his mother had passed away. At the very moment his mother was "all
over and done with," Krapp is sitting holding unto "a small, old, black rubber
ball" that he had been playing with a dog with (1630-1). For a moment, he
considers keeping this as a cherishable memento of his mother\'s death which he
would "feel until his dying day. But I gave it to the dog" (1631). He simply
imparts these reminiscent and sentimental thoughts of his mother to a dog,
reflective of the relationship and his feelings towards his mother.
Further use of color as symbolic imagery is seen with the various women
Krapp encounters in his life. As he attempts to find happiness in his various
relationships, he merely just falls further from this goal, which is represented
in the decline of color. During his youngest years, he is involved in a
relationship with Bianca, "a girl in a shabby green coat" which ends up failing
(1630). He next encounters a nurse "all white and starch," representing her
purity and perfection (1630). Though despite her beauty, she is unattainable
for Krapp for she threatens to a call a policeman. He is next in a relationship
with Effe, who is not physically described besides the scratch on her thigh.
For Krapp, because of this flaw, she is imperfect, therefore he cannot find any
happiness with her. Then finally, he resorts to Fanny, "a bony old ghost of a
whore" (1633). Their relationship is not even described, but is merely implied
as purely sexual on Krapp\'s part. As the colors disappear to nothingness so
does his chances of acquiring any possible happiness.
Though Samuel Beckett