Overview of Three Interpretations of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

analytical Essay
3212 words
3212 words

Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot between October 1948 and January 1949. Since its premiere in January of 1953, it has befuddled and confounded critics and audiences alike. Some find it to be a meandering piece of drivel; others believe it to be genius. Much of the strain between the two sides stems from one simple question. What does this play mean? Even within camps where Waiting for Godot is heralded, the lack of clarity and consensus brings about a tension and discussion that has lasted over sixty years.

I will look at what I have determined to be the three most predominant interpretations of the play, including anti-Christianity, existentialism, and nihilism. By also examining Beckett’s life and influences, I believe that a well-rounded set of possibilities will be presented. Finally, I will use sources to work my own argument. I believe this play is inherently about nothing, and that it is us as readers that over-complicate it. Because we search for meaning in everything, Waiting for Godot has to mean something, otherwise it does not fit into what we find comfortable or acceptable. I will start by delving into Samuel Beckett’s background.

One of the more bizarre bits about Beckett’s life was that he claimed to have vivid prenatal memories. According to James Knowlson, author of the only authorized Beckett biography entitled Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, these memories were not pleasant. He writes, “Yet the memories that, as an adult he claimed to have of the womb, deriving probably from the period shortly before his birth were associated more with feelings of being trapped and unable to escape, imprisoned and in pain (Knowlson 23-24).” This sense of being forcibly held in stasis and wanti...

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...odot: tragicomedy in 2 acts,. New York: Grove Press, 1954. Print.

Gordon, Lois G.. Reading Godot. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.

Knowlson, James. Damned to fame: the life of Samuel Beckett. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.

Shobeiri, Ashkan. "Beckett's Atheism in Waiting for Godot and Endgame : a Proof for Absurdism." International journal of Humanities and social science 1.27 (2011): n. pag. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Web. 9 May 2014.

"Matthew 25." The Holy Bible: New International version : containing the Old Testament and the New Testament.. East Brunswick, NJ: International Bible Society, 1984. 31-46. Print.

Valentine, John. "Nihilism and the Eschaton in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot." Florida Philosophical Review [Orlando] 16 Dec. 2009: n. pag. Florida Philosophical Review. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the other searches for the contrary of saved.
  • Opines that vladimir is one out of four. of the other three, two don't mention thieves at all.
  • Opines that only one speaks of a thief being saved.
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