Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Essay

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Essay
Rate this post

  • University/College:
    University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 1593

  • Pages: 6

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

The tragicomedy Waiting for Godot, written by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, is one of the pioneering pieces of literature which were a part of a new genre, called Theatre of the Absurd. Upon reading it, one can easily infer why this is the case- throughout the 2 acts the play consists of, there is virtually no plot. Two vagrants, Vladimir and Estragon, loitering around a rather vague setting- a country road next to a tree- with only a passer-by every now and then, wait for a certain Godot, who never arrives. Despite this uneventful storyline, Waiting for Godot has somehow managed to keep the audiences glued to their seats ever since its premiere in 1953. Dealing with the issues of sollitude and meaninglessness of our lives in such an obscure manner, Beckett left much room for interpretations. While Vladimir and Estragon have bulit a strong bond througout the years they have spent on their tedious quest for a faceless stranger, much of their communication is based on habits, patterns and meaningless banter. Yet, given the fact that both of them are nescient of whether their exertions will be worthwhile or not, their relationship might just be the only significant element of their lives. A number of existential questions can be derived from such a problematic situation and it is the aim of this essay to investigate the possible answers to Beckett’s intriguing, yet evasive view of man’s eternal search for true purpose and companionship.

Vladimir and Estragon are a couple of friends brought together by the same fate some 50 years ago, waiting for a person named Godot. But for the name, none of them know much more about this individual. Yet, it is through this lenghty process that the two men revealed their different personalities and developed a somewhat co-dependent relationship. Vladimir, the more logical and analytical of the two, provides both mental and physical protection to the feeble and more inferior Estragon. But, this dependence is mutual- it is Vladimir who needs Estragon to need him, too. Their complementary personalities, one being more intellectual and the other more connected to his bodily needs, formed a undoubtedly strong connection. Inspite of that, there are a number of instances in the text which could serve as evidence of the hollowness of their friendship. For one, it is Vladimir’s inability to cope with Estragon’s dreams:

Estragon. I had a dream.

Vladimir. Don’t tell me!
Estragon. I dreamt that…
Vladimir. DON’T TELL ME!
Estragon. It’s not nice of you, Didi. Who am I to tell my private nightmares to if I can’t tell them to you?
Vladimir. Let them remain private. You know I can’t bear that. (Beckett 12)

Vladimir’s almost frantic avoidance of his friend’s more intimate and personal confessions seems to indicate that Vladimir is not quite able nor willing to completely open up to another person, therefore becoming exposed and vulnerable. On numerous occasions do the two men grow tired of their endless chatter devoid of meaning and what I have found especially heartbreaking while reading the play is that Vladimir and especially Estragon are painfully aware of the fact that their lives consist merely of a repetitive cycle of trivial gestures (fidgeting with hats, boots etc.) and conversations:

Estragon. We don’t manage too badly, eh Didi, between the two of us?

Vladimir. Yes yes. Come on, we’ll try the left first.

Estragon. We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist? Vladimir (impatiently). Yes yes, we’re magicians (…)
(Beckett 53)

Clearly, both of them are utterly exhausted by their daily interaction, which they sometimes feel is thrust upon them, due to same fate (they think) they share. They both seek some time off from the endless banter, finding happiness in rare moments of solitude:

Vladimir. I missed you… and at the same time I was happy. Isn’t that a strange thing?

Estragon (shocked). Happy?

Vladimir. Perhaps it’s not quite the right word.
Estragon. And now?
Vladimir. Now? … (Joyous.) There you are again… (Indifferent.) There we are again… (Gloomy.) There I am again.
Estragon. You see, you feel worse when I’m with you. I feel better alone too. Vladimir (vexed). Then why do you always come crawling back? Estragon. I don’t know.
(Beckett 43)

It is obvious that the two feel a sense of relief after spending some time apart from the incessant interaction, but are unable to function properly without each other. One may interpret Vladimir’s reaction as appeasement after returning to a well-known and, therefore, comfortable situation, followed by the realization that familiar circumstances reintroduce the same, monotonous everyday patterns from which they originally tried to escape. It is habit and convenience which keep them together. However, despite the fact that they both have an opportunity to thrive on their own, if only they understood that their situation is not preconditioned, but a matter of choice, Beckett does not find solitude to be the natural state of human existence. Much like many other elements in this play, the author introduces characters in pairs. Vladimir and Estragon are an example of a partnership between two equals.

The other duo are Pozzo and Lucky, and they represent a master-servant relationship, and while the nature of their relation is different from the other two, this twosome also complement each other and provide structure and continuity to their everyday lives. Even the Boy, who occasionally shows up and serves as Godot’s spokesperson, is paired up with his brother, who is at one point mentioned during the play. The only character who does not have a comrade is the elusive Godot, of whom we do not know much about. The only information we have is that he is reportedly a white-bearded man, who treats the Boy fairly well ( but, for an unknown reason, beats the boy’s brother) and that he told the men to wait for him next to the tree, and, then they would be saved. But, how is that going to happen? Who is Godot and how is he able to save the two men? What are they going to be saved from? The most common interpretation is that Godot represents God, and that most people seek God as the sole purpose of their lives, instead of setting their own goals and spending their lives striving to reach them. By making their purpose something that is external (transcendent even), people no longer take responsibility for the course of their lives, but rather leave it up to the sublime to decide for them, not considering on what grounds they based their beliefs. In their seemingly futile quest for their savior, Vladimir and Estragon are prone to jumping to conclusions when it comes to his identity.

At one point, they confuse Pozzo for Godot, being temporarily stupefied by his theatrical arrival. Being as powerful (owning both land and people) and gaudy as he is, it is not surprising why he was mistaken for a supernatural being. It is my opinion that Beckett predicted what today is a very common sight- masses being convinced to think that the rich and the famous should serve as role models and are somehow superior to common people. Some, like Lucky, devote their entire lives to these fake idols. But, when comparing him to Vladimir and Estragon, despite being ironically named Lucky, is he actually more content than the two of them? After all, Lucky is the only one who has a purposeful and structuralized life, even if that means devoting his entire life to serving a cruel and self-centered glutton that is Pozzo. Unlike anybody else, this choice was entirely up to him and he was fully aware of the consequences of his decision. On the other hand, neither Vladimir nor Estragon have any idea when, or even if they will be redeemed. They are both utterly caught up in this expectation that it eventually becomes their prison. They are powerless when trying to escape their self-imposed fate:

Estragon. That’s enough. I’m tired. (He releases Estragon, picks up his coat and puts it on.) Let’s go.

Vladimir. We can’t.

Estragon. Why not?
Vladimir. We’re waiting for Godot.
(Beckett 54-55)

This kind of interaction appears several times within the text. Even when contemplating the most extreme of escapes -committing suicide- they are both confined within the outcome of their decision to hinge their future on the action of others, and even such a personal choice like taking one’s own life seems now to be in the hands of the ever-elusory Godot. Essentially, the only choice they make is not to make any other choices:

Vladimir. Well? What do we do?

Estragon. Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer.
(Beckett 14)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

About the author

admin

View all posts

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Essay

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Essay
Rate this post

  • University/College:
    University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 607

  • Pages: 2

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett may be observed as a meaningless play with its sole purpose being humor by some; however, the significance of the literature is open for interpretation. The characters of Estragon and Vladimir are delusional and helplessly waiting for someone, for whom they have absolutely no knowledge of. The setting consists of a country road and merely a tree. The tree is the only distinct object present throughout the two act play; therefore I believe it has a purpose. This lone tree serves as a major symbol of hope, which enlarges the literal meaning of the play. However one interprets Godot can also change how one see’s the tree as a symbol.

Throughout the play, Vladimir and Estragon appear hopeless and aloof. Time has no meaning (the characters have faulty memories), and they do not have a purpose in life as we observe, other than to pass the time “waiting for Godot” .There are many biblical references in the play which can directly relate the tree to the crucifixion. It is a theory that Vladimir and Estragon represent the pair of thieves who were crucified on each side of Jesus (one was dammed and the other was saved). In this case, we do not know if either Vladimir or Estragon fits this theory because the fate of their characters is never revealed by the end of the play. In midst of their boredom, the two friends contemplate whether or not to hang themselves from the tree. This can also be viewed as a reference to the crucifix, but it parodies the religious significance.

In between Act I and Act II, the tree has sprouted leaves, which is odd because it was completely bare the day before. This highlights the theme of time, and how the characters lack the essence of time. Vladimir observes the tree for a few moments at the beginning of Act II, but he is distracted by Estragon’s entrance. The two never mention or discuss the obvious change in the tree, even though they spent the entire day before next to the same tree. They are not aware of the life they have, or the meaning of being an individual. The sprouting of the tree represents rebirth and life; it emphasizes the theme of hope. It is suiting that Vladimir and Estragon do not notice the change because they have not gained any knowledge as to why they are waiting and who for, which adds irony to the play.

Could Beckett be using Vladimir and Estragon to represent mankind as a whole? It is possible he chose a simple setting so the audience could relate the play to their own lives. Are you letting life pass you by just waiting for something to happen? Or will you accept that hope is always right next to you (the tree) and act upon it? Waiting for Godot is a literary work that can be interpreted in a substantial amount of ways.

The importance of symbolism in any piece of writing was surely brought to my attention while studying this play. The plot would not have as much substance without the tree because it is the only object in the setting, and it would be more difficult to connect the many religious references. All in all, the tree serves as an imperative symbol throughout Waiting for Godot, which allows the audience to create their own analyses of Beckett’s work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

About the author

admin

View all posts