The Christian Explanation of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

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The Christian Explanation of Waiting for Godot

"The human predicament described in Beckett's first play is that of man living on the Saturday after the Friday of the crucifixion, and not really knowing if all hope is dead or if the next day will bring the life which has been promised." --William R. Mueller

In the five decades since Waiting for Godot's publication, many of the countless attempts to explain the play have relied on some variation of this religious motif proposed by William Mueller. Though Beckett's open text invites the reader to hunt for an interpretation, statements as decisive as this one overstep the search and leave little room for any other possibility. His idea has a compelling textual basis, but its finality violates the spirit of the play. Kenneth Tynan suggests that "Beckett's Waiting for Godot is a dramatic vacuum...It has no plot, no climax, no denouement; no beginning, no middle, and no end." Such an idea forces any analyst of this enigmatic masterpiece to tread lightly and makes definite criticism nearly impossible. Before examining an explanation as conclusive as Mueller's we must acknowledge that we cannot hope to determine "the meaning" of this play. Neither the text nor its author makes a claim to any intrinsic meaning, yet a new meaning is born each time a reader or viewer partakes of the play.

With such cautions in mind, we can now approach Mueller's religious hypothesis with a safe detachment. The first utterance of Godot phonetically brings God to mind, and evidence throughout the play assures the reader that this path is a valid one to follow. On the most mundane level, Vladimir supports Mueller's premise with his guess at the timeframe of the play: "He said it was Saturday. I think"(10). We discover, however, that even this statement hides beneath the uncertainty as Estragon challenges, "But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? Or Monday? Or Friday?" (11). His questioning reasserts that this work defies explanation and reminds us that we are following only one possible solution to an unsolvable problem.

If we read this drama with the intention of fitting Mueller's theory to the play (or perhaps the play to his theory), a vast number of previously unnoticed interpretive opportunities arise. Though the nondescript tree can be universally symbolic, when viewed from a religious standpoint it conjures an image of Christ's cross.
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