Samuel Beckett’s short story, “One Evening” sets up a brief scene in which a woman stumbles upon the corpse of a man while walking through a barren field. The incident happens purely by chance and is but one of the surprises the woman receives in the course of the story. While nothing concrete takes place within this story, Beckett uses short vague sentences throughout, hinting at something deeper. Sentences like, “Not too fast” and “That seems to hang together” are repeated several times throughout the piece, offering the premise that nothing is what it seems. Here we have this woman who is searching for yellow flowers to put on her husband’s grave. She comes across the cadaver of a man who is lying facedown on the grass and immediately comes to the conclusion that he has not been searched for. The story opens with the line, “No one had missed him. No one was looking for him.” This statement may not be completely accurate, yet it seems that way since he is facedown in a barren field.
Craft choices Beckett makes in this story include short and vague sentences in which he sets the scene up for readers to visualize. “The deserted fields. The old woman in all black stockingstill. The body stockstill on the ground.Yellow at the end of the black arm. The white hair in the grass.” His terse language leaves a lot to the imagination since as readers, we really know nothing about these characters. The scenery becomes the focus and allows readers to assume these characters’ backgrounds. The man found on the field is essentially a faceless character, yet he leaves a big impact precisely because we don’t know his history. The old woman is also mysterious since it is only revealed that she is out looking for yellow flowers, contrasting the black attire she has worn since her husband passed away. For instance, “An old woman found him. To put it vaguely. She was straying in search of wild flowers. Yellow only.”
This woman has been living an existence of grief ever since she lost her husband. She keeps to herself and rarely goes out, except for the times she ventures out in search of yellow flowers. She only wants yellow flowers because they remind her of the sun. The line, “Cooped indoors all day she comes out with the sun,” demonstrates she is hiding from the darkness. She is drawn to the light and instinctively chases after bright colors, the yellow flowers and sun symbolizing her longing for happiness. Beckett’s fragmented language accentuates the morose tone found this desire. When details are mentioned so dryly and straightforward, readers can feel the grief the old woman is feeling.
Beckett uses third person in this story, which works in conjunction with the vague sentences to isolate the reader. This story takes place in a barren field in which a lonely woman finds a corpse of a man who might have been lonely as well. The theme it centers on is isolation. Third person and vague language enhance this theme since nothing concrete takes place. We can only go by assumptions. By not using a first-person point of view, Beckett also isolates readers from what might really be going on here. It is never revealed who this man and woman are. All we know as readers is that she is a widow who spends most of her time indoors, away from society. She comes out every so often to the same field to pick yellow wild flowers to set on her husband’s grave. Most of this story’s focus is on the description of the surroundings. While nothing really happens, it is implied that there is much more than meets the eye. The subtlety with which Beckett writes magnifies the grief this woman has felt since the passing of her husband. At one point, it is mentioned that “her old friend her shadow irks her.” Her own presence seems to be of no use to her and she even turns toward the sun in order to escape it. The fact she is searching for yellow flowers and turns to the bright yellow sun represents her longing for light to contrast the dark she surrounds herself with on a daily basis.