Places: All That Fall

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1957

First produced: 1957, BBC Third Programme, London

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Absurdist

Time of work: Twentieth century

Places DiscussedVillage

Village. All That FallUnnamed rural community in Ireland that serves as the peripheral setting of the play and establishes the foundation of its humor and tragedy. While Samuel Beckett’s dramatic themes are universal in scope, they are also rooted in his native Ireland.

Country road

Country road. Road to the village that is a dangerous and toilsome place–one on which a person might be run over by a passing motor van at any moment and whose dust and filth cling to people. In a broader sense, the country road mirrors the human condition as Beckett presents it–a place where every action is merely a hesitation before death. Parents rear children only to be struck down by disease or by the wheels of a train. Mrs. Rooney shuffles along the country road, suffering under the weight of her own body and the memory of her dead daughter, toward a meeting at the train station with her blind and embittered husband.

Boghill train station

Boghill train station. The station is initially a source of hope. Mrs. Rooney plans to surprise her husband on his birthday by meeting him there. It becomes, however, another source of death when she discovers that a child has fallen beneath a train’s wheels and has died–a tragedy that might have been caused by Mr. Rooney. Mrs. Rooney’s trip to the station also compels her to leave home, where she would prefer to stay, waiting for death to come, as she describes it, by a “drifting gently down in the higher life, and remembering, remembering . . . all the silly unhappiness . . . as though . . . it had never happened. . . .”

BibliographyAlspaugh, David J. “The Symbolic Structure of Samuel Beckett’s All That Fall.” Modern Drama 9 (December, 1966): 324-332. An overview of the play’s features. Discussion focuses on the work’s plot, and on such themes as paternity and Christianity. The idea of movement in the play is also examined.Bair, Deirdre. Samuel Beckett: A Biography, 1978.Cohn, Ruby. Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut, 1962.Federman, Raymond, and John Fletcher. Samuel Beckett, His Works and His Critics, 1970.Fletcher, John. Samuel Beckett’s Art, 1967.Fletcher, John, and John Spurling. Beckett the Playwright. Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1985. A helpful introductory study of all of Beckett’s dramatic works, with a chapter on All That Fall. Discussion focuses on the work’s motifs of love and loss and on the wit of its complicated verbal play.Kenner, Hugh. A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett, 1973.McWhinnie, Donald. The Art of Radio. London: Faber, 1969. The author produced the first broadcast of All That Fall. As well as general thoughts about radio as an artistic medium, detailed information regarding the play’s production is included. Of particular interest are the insights regarding the challenges of Beckett’s script.Van Laan, Thomas F. “All That Fall as ‘a Play for Radio.’” Modern Drama 28 (March, 1985): 38-47. An analysis of how the play uses radio as an artistic idea. The ways in which language and action in All That Fall are significantly reshaped by the medium are discussed. The relationship of the play to the overall preoccupations of Beckett’s work is also explored.Zilliacus, Clas. Beckett and Broadcasting. Abo, Finland: Abo Akademi, 1976. The definitive account of Beckett’s artistic and professional involvement with radio and television. Beckett’s thoughts about the various productions of his broadcast works are included. Detailed accounts of the productions are provided, including some illuminating commentary on the use of sound effects in All That Fall.
Categories: Places