The Mysterious Banana

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The Mysterious Banana
Included in many literary works are objects, which may seem meaningless, contributing to the theme of the work. In Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape”, a dramatic work which falls into the category of Theatre of the Absurd, the banana is a discreet object which eludes to the meaning behind why Krapp chose that particular event to listen to while recording his last diary tape. Sigmund Freud’s theory of wish fulfillment suggests that a banana represents repressed sexuality which can be linked to the event on the tape marked “Box Three, Spool Five”.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that who a person is and how he/she acts stems from the workings of their subconscious; this is known as the psychodynamic approach to psychology (Santrock and Mitterer 11). Through the psychodynamic approach, Freud developed his theory of wish fulfillment. Freud believed that the reason why people have dreams is so that their subconscious can express feelings and desires that they may not be aware they have, or are not able to act out while awake. In wish fulfillment there is manifest content which is the object that a person dreams of and latent content which is the symbolism behind the object they dream of (Santrock and Mitterer 235).

The type of theatre which “Krapp’s Last Tape” is classified in is known as the Theatre of the Absurd. Theatre of the Absurd is a form of comedic drama which portrays the often meaninglessness of life. Plays of this nature usually do not display a direct plot and are usually repetitious such as every day life is (Kirszner, Mandell, and Fertile 920). With using this form of comedic drama Samuel Beckett is able to portray the life of Krapp in a dream-like state, with a dark stage, cluttered desk, only one actor, and no direction of where the play is going.

When looking at “Krapp’s Last Tape” as if it were set in a state of dreams it can be seen that an object in the play may have more meaning than what is originally thought to have. In dreams all objects and occurrences are thought to have a meaning other than what is seen at face value. It is thought that, in dreams, a banana represents the repression of sexuality. Not only does it represent the repression of sexual urges but of phallic sexuality (“Banana”). It is thought that if bananas are seen in one’s dream then “your hard work will be met with little reward and gains” (“Banana”).

In “Krapp’s Last Tape” the elderly man Krapp is listening to a diary tape representing his early years. On the tape marked “Box Three, Spool Five”, a younger version of Krapp relays an event in which he finds himself on a boat with an unknown woman. While before he searches for the tape, Krapp unlocks a drawer, pulls out a banana, and eats it. Shortly after the tape starts to play the younger Krapp says “Have just eaten I regret to say three bananas and only with difficulty refrained from a fourth. Fatal things for a man with my condition” (Beckett 1370); as Krapp consumes specifically a banana before both recording the tape originally and listening to it years later suggests that the banana does have more of a meaning to him other then just nutrition.

There are two meanings behind the presence of a banana in a dream: repressed sexuality and the representation of failed work. Both of these meanings can be seen in “Krapp’s Last Tape”. When the tape of spool five is played, a younger version of Krapp discloses that he has consumed several bananas before starting the recording. The recording that he makes is of a sexual encounter that had occurred at some time that year. The presence of a banana at this point in the play suggests that as he was remembering the event, before he started recording, he was trying to suppress his urges. It can be seen that he represses by covering up his emotion as while he relays the story he places a lot of emphasis on the scratches he sees on the woman’s leg and that he attributes them to her unfaithfulness. The fact...
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