Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and the Theater of the Absurd

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and the Theater of the Absurd

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Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is an absurd play about two men, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) who wait under a withered tree for Godot, who Vladimir says has an important but unknown message. This play is incredibly bizarre, because at times it is difficult to discern if there is a plot at all, and at other times, the play seems incredibly profound.One of the most ambiguous aspects of Beckett's play is the identity of Godot. If the reader analyzes all the Biblical allusions, it is quite easy to say that Godot is God. (Actually, the word Godot can be anagrammed to say "To God," but it is questionable whether this is mere coincidence or has some significance.) The interpretation, then, would be of two men (mankind as a whole) waiting for something (salvation or proof) that will never come. (Every day, a messenger says that Godot will come tomorrow for certain.) This message is very appropriate when considering the play's existentialist aspects.Interestingly, Vladimir and Estragon deny that they know Godot when Pozzo asks them.

Keeping with the religious theme, this is parallel to Peter's denial of Jesus.Another interpretation is that Pozzo is God, and Lucky is mankind. Perhaps Pozzo is really Godot, as he was mistaken for Godot, or maybe Pozzo is just there as a deception. Lucky wants to satisfy Pozzo with menial acts of obedience (according to Pozzo's own explanation of Lucky's actions), while Pozzo seems quite apathetic to Lucky's deeds and plights. However, in the second act, Pozzo needs Lucky to exist, because Pozzo is blind. Perhaps this is similar to the theory that God would not exist if man did not believe in Him.Pozzo and Lucky are easily compared as the oppressed masses and the wealthy oppressors.

If Beckett is trying to be a social critic, he could be saying that the oppressed are dumb and moored (Lucky is mute), or maybe he is merely showing humans at their most awful.Mutual dependence is a recurring theme in the play. Vladimir and Estragon depend upon each other (as companions), and Pozzo and Lucky are dependent upon each other. Didi and Gogo have been together for at least fifty years, and Gogo has left Didi and returned many times. Obviously, they need each other to survive. Pozzo depends on Lucky for labor and entertainment, and then for sight. Indeed, it is appropriate that Pozzo talks of listening to Lucky think for him (guide), and then he needs Lucky to guide him in a very literal sense.

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The other dependency is subtler. Vladimir and Estragon represent body and soul. However, they must not be separately identified (one is the body, the other is the soul), for they are both two halves of a split being. They always want to deny Self (separating themselves). It is most clear that both are one at the few moments when they agree with one another, when they complete each other's thoughts, or even when they say the same thing, two voice united as one.The most confusing part of the entire play is Lucky's monologue, which might be a parody of intellectual speeches, due to weird references and the comical stutter. It is full of classical references to things with which many high school students are not familiar.

Additionally, a lot of the words are distorted versions of slang words: "Belcher" as "belch," "Fartov" as "fart," "Testew" as "testes," "Cunard" as "c---," "possy" as "p----," and "Feckham" as "f--- him". Perhaps these are farfetched, but the purpose in using such base words is to make his speech cruder and more derisive. They describe VERY human, earthly functions. These words truly represent a disintegrating mind (one given to too much waiting).

Some other weird words (which had to be looked up): "apathia", "athambia," and "aphasia." "Apathia" is obviously similar to the word "apathy," meaning indifference. "Aphasia," according to the dictionary, is the loss of ability to understand or to express speech owing to brain damage. I am not sure of "athambia," but it might be Greek for passivity. The significance of these words might be that God is unfeeling, unseeing (blind Pozzo), and inattentive. Additionally, the phrase "quaquaqua" is repeated several times throughout the monologue. Here, it is simply a meaningless sound, but it reminded me of another word: quaquaversal, meaning "pointing in every direction," which is more than appropriate for this incessant discourse.Lastly, by omitting some of Lucky's words and separating them, a weird, partial quote remains, "Given the existence...of a personal God...outside time...who...loves us dearly...and suffers...with those who...are plunged in torment...it is established...beyond all doubt...that man..." Either Beckett leaves off here to make the reader decide on his own, or he merely wants to annoy the reader with this long, rambling, nonsense.But more importantly, Waiting for Godot illustrates an attitude toward man's experience on earth: the poignancy, oppression, camaraderie, hope, corruption, scum, and bewilderment at the human antithesis that can only be reconciled in mind of the absurdist.

If Godot is God, then Didi and Gogo's (mankind's) faith in God has almost entirely disappeared. Yet the illusion of faith--that deeply embedded hope that Godot might come--still flickers in the minds of Vladimir and Estragon. It is almost as if these two men see no reason to have faith, but cannot renounce it completely.
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