Samuel Beckett’s main character, Krapp, in Krapp’s Last Tape, depicts the ever-challenging struggle of human existence: separation of self, through the usage of the juxtaposed sides of Krapp. Beckett uses the three ages of the main character to display the conundrum of how, through the generations of life, life can split a person into different pieces. The obsession that Krapp has with making a tape on his birthday can be observed as something to remind himself of his failures as a youth, which Beckett uses as a main narrative tool to maintain the theme of Krapp’s characterization.
Throughout Krapp’s Last Tape, Krapp’s bitterness and regret of his actions help reiterate how Krapp’s obsession with his past affects the older versions of himself. The play begins with Krapp at the lowest moment in his life where he reflects and criticizes his past obsessively. Beckett articulates a contrast between the Krapp on the stage and the one being narrated on the tapes.
The contrast describes the regret that Krapp feels towards his younger self. Beckett explores this theme through the contrast and the particular juxtaposition of the aspirations and hope of the older and younger versions of Krapp. Krapp’s next birthday message begins with an excoriation of his past. The “stupid bastard,”(61) Krapp describes himself as, was this younger man full of aspiration and intelligence, which Krapp
points out to be fictitious. The younger Krapp was pursuing his work, and believed that it was to become something great and that he would settle down with the right woman.
However, the older Krapp interprets these words as hollow and doomed, as none of the things that young Krapp aspired to achieve come to fruition. Beckett’s usage of this particular ‘dialogue’ is what shows us
what little regard older Krapp has for looking towards the future, as his character on-stage proves his bitter, angry reflections on his younger self prove to have the opposite mindset.
The tapes that Krapp seems to be fixated on, throughout the play, are the sole documentation of his life, an archive of himself. He is incapable of examining the past years of his life in hopes of finding some form of consolation in his present life. This obsession is a curse for Krapp as the process has become overbearing. His decline continues to accelerate through the documentation of his thoughts and feelings. He “sat shivering in the park, drowned in dreams and burning to be gone”(62), further articulating this depression Krapp has fallen into.
The conundrum that Krapp traps himself into is the driving force for his depression and loneliness. His failures become overwhelming and trap him in a figurative cage of his own doing. Once trapped in this cage, his documented life plays back infinitely, and Krapp is left only to be haunted by his failures as they continue to play out. Samuel Beckett uses the tapes as a narration of Krapp’s continuous sorrow and the juxtaposed characterizations help the audience conclude the inevitability that doomed obsession/fixation can have, through the usage of the theme: separation of self.