All That Fall: A Play for Radio Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Samuel Beckett

First published: 1957

Genre: Play

Locale: County Dublin, Ireland

Plot: Absurdist

Time: The 1950's

Mrs. Rooney, a woman in her seventies in poor health, weighing more than two hundred pounds. Mrs. Rooney's trip to meet her husband at the railway station on his birthday is a long, slow journey full of chance meetings with a variety of characters. She represents the human condition, and her dragging feet suggest the difficulty of making one's way through life. Mrs. Rooney mourns the loss of her child Minnie, and she is philosophical about the brevity of existence in her remarks about the chicken killed on the road. She tries to converse with the various people she meets but ends up estranging them, suggesting modern people's inability to communicate. Mrs. Rooney is obsessed with sex, and many of her remarks carry sexual innuendo. She is caring and concerned for the health and well-being of those she meets. She announces the source of the play's title in Psalm 145, which provides the text for the Sunday service: “The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” The quotation prompts laughter in Mr. and Mrs. Rooney, showing their skepticism that they, as the “bowed down,” will someday be raised up.

Mr. Rooney, the blind husband of Mrs. Rooney. Always in bad humor, Mr. Rooney is surprised by his wife's appearance at the train station on his birthday. He is preoccupied with counting, which he sees as one of the few satisfactions in life. When he and his wife are taunted by children on the road, he confesses an urge to kill a child, especially Jerry, the boy who guides him home from the station. His job is mundane and repetitious, and he expresses a desire to leave it. Chronically ill, he represents an urge toward death, unsure of how old he is and whether he will be alive on Monday.

Christy, a carter who meets Mrs. Rooney on the road. He is walking beside a cartload of dung, which he offers to Mrs. Rooney, suggesting that the ride down the road of life may be like a ride on a dung cart. Mrs. Rooney tells Christy that she speaks only in simple words but often thinks that her way of speaking is bizarre.

Mr. Tyler, a retired bill-broker. He meets Mrs. Rooney on the road and stops when he realizes that his bicycle tire has gone flat, suggesting that for him, too, the journey down the road of life is difficult. Mrs. Rooney falls into a fit of mourning for her dead child, but when he attempts to console her, she interprets his consolation as a sexual advance, and he rides away.

Mr. Slocum, clerk of the racecourse. Mrs. Rooney calls him an old admirer. He offers her a lift in his motorcar, but they are barely able to fit her inside. Mr. Slocum's dry wit responds to Mrs. Rooney's suggestive remarks with literal answers. He carelessly runs over a chicken on the road, prompting Mrs. Rooney's remark on life's brevity and foreshadowing the death of the child under the wheel of the train.

Tommy, a porter at the railway station. He helps Mrs. Rooney out of the Slocum motorcar, a maneuver that intimates parturition.

Mr. Barrell, the stationmaster, who is nearing retirement. He is impatient with Tommy and irritable with Mrs. Rooney, who questions him about the lateness of the train.

Miss Fitt, a lady in her thirties who professes to be very religious. She recognizes people only in church, and her charity is limited; she has to be coaxed to help Mrs. Rooney up to the platform. She describes herself as dark and “alone with her maker.” She represents the inability of religious people to function in the world.

Jerry, a small boy who is hired by Mr. Rooney to lead him home from the train station. He runs after Mr. Rooney to return the ball he believes was left by him on the train. From Jerry, Mrs. Rooney learns that a child was killed on the tracks, causing the train's delay.

Female Voice and Dolly, a woman and her daughter at the train station. They laugh at Mrs. Rooney and Miss Fitt.

Categories: Characters