Essay on Existentialism in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

Essay on Existentialism in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

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Existential philosophy became prevalent in the twentieth century as a symbol of the destruction of culture and tradition following World War II, asserting the hopelessness of humanity and focusing on life in a more honest but pessimistic manner than other socialistic philosophies. The philosophy recognizes the fact that humankind is capable of great evil and has limitless possibilities, yet this is a curse rather than a blessing: we are condemned to be free and are thus held accountable for our actions. The ludicrousity, however, is found in the existentialist belief that life has no purpose, and while the choices that we make are irrelevant on grand scale, they ultimately influence our self-definition. Jean-Paul Sartre postulates that existence precedes essence: the individual has no pre-defined purpose. If God were to create us, he states, then he would have a purpose for our creation, but there is no God and thus we must exercise our free will in order to decide our nature. This philosophy is the basis of Beckett?s Waiting for Godot: it is a mechanism used to define the themes of absurdity, uncertainty and hopelessness in a play that is otherwise perceived as meaningless.
It is important to note that existentialists believe that a rational account of reality cannot exist. It is absurd that we are simply thrown into being ? why here, why now? Life is a futile passion because we are not able to rationalize our lives, and therefore, the human condition is one of suffering. Beckett illustrates this futility through Vladimir and Estragon: Vladimir originally suggests ?All my life I?ve tried to put it from me ? And I resumed the struggle? (Beckett 2), and the characters constantly reiterate that there is ?nothing to be done.? The...


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...e existential value behind it implying that mankind achieves nothing during his existence. Estragon and Vladimir symbolize all of mankind (as evident through Estragon?s reference of himself as ?Adam?) in a fruitless wait with no meaning and no certainties. The world is random, and everything that happens to you happens by chance. There is no well-crafted plan, no scheme by which the universe operates, and attempting to rationalize the complexity of human nature is risible. Our purpose is simply to confront our existence during this period of waiting, so we are not removed from the liberating awareness that the moment we are in, the period between life and death, is more important than a better future that we desire.
Works Cited

Beckett, Samuel. Waiting For Godot. 3rd ed. N.p.: CPI Group, 2006. Print. Vol. 1 of Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works. 4 vols

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