Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

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Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

In Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett asks what it is that we are really doing on Earth. He feels that God plays a key role in the solution to the human condition, however, since we do not truly know if God exists, life it would seem is simply a quest to search for an alternate explanation. Most of the time we attempt to distract ourselves from the issue and try desperately to bring some sort of meaning into our life while silently waiting for someone or something to come and give us an answer. According to Beckett, the definition of human existence is waiting to ascertain if the possibility of salvation with a possible God exists, or if all that lies ahead is darkness; he feels that all other aspects of life are insignificant and essentially can be reduced to nothing. These ideas are illustrated in a play where time seems to be irrelevant, nothing of importance ever happens, and the main characters are left waiting for someone who may or may not ever come.

At the very beginning, Beckett hints at his proposal to the solution to the human condition. Vladimir tells the ignorant Estragon the story from the Bible of the two thieves that were crucified at the same time as Jesus. Apparently, one of the thieves believed in God, the other did not--the one who believed was saved. In Vladimir's opinion, this is not that bad a deal: "One of the thieves was saved. (Pause.) It's a reasonable percentage" (8). It seems that according to the story, reward or punishment is handed out depending on behavior (or at least belief). Vladimir's thoughts are somewhat parallel to those of the French philosopher Pascal who rationalized that given the possible outcomes, one is better to bet that God exists. However, ...

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...after waiting so long and nothing positive ever happens (besides a few leaves on a tree) that even the persistence of the 'conscious' seems to begin to fade as well.

Beckett poses some interesting questions. If all we are doing on Earth is waiting--waiting for answers whose meanings we may never comprehend--is anything that we do significant at all? As humans, it seems that in a sense we do, somewhere in us, realize our condition. However, we try to remain ignorant of it. We look for distractions; we look for something that seems to have meaning just so the absolute absurdity of our life remains masked. We search for answers--answers that may or may not ever come. In our continued waiting nonetheless, it seems our situation continues to become more hopeless.

Works Cited

Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. Trans. Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press, 1982.
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