Man’s search for meaning in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
Samuel Beckett, in full Samuel Barclay Beckett (1906-1989) wrote both French and English, and Waiting for Godot is his very splendid play which is an excellent example of the Theatre of the Absurd. Its essential meaning is not clear, but different critics define it in various way. It was acknowledged to the development of modern drama.
The drama represents human situation, man’s existential problems, life, death, God, salvation, loneliness, suffering, helplessness. It also addresses meaninglessness of human life, the repetitiveness of everyday life. Through each of the characters of this drama I am trying to show human condition in this Universe with the help of different author.
The play Waiting for Godot, is a play of two acts with a simple plot but not a traditional plot. The setting of the novel is on a barren tree, a country road, two old trumps: Vladimir and Estragon. The play end in the same way it begins. In the opening scene of the play, two trumps Vladimir and Estragon, they are waiting for Godot with whom they have an appointment.
The meeting is very important for them because “Godot belongs to the world of the play. Without Godot they have nothing to wait for and no place to wait. waiting for Godot becomes their central activity of life” (Gans, p.6). While they are waiting, they pass the time by performing various activities: keep repeating themselves, forgetting, talking nonsense and trying to find the answer the question: who and where is Godot? We find that the characters’ only desire is to find God and for which they cannot do anything.
The pair reflects humanity and our society is like their society. Vladimir represents the part of humanity who keeps faith in religion and spiritual beliefs and Estragon represents the existentialist part of humanity who chooses to stop waiting and tells Vladimir that they should do their own way of work (Gans, p.6). Here is an example on this basis:
Vladimir: Let’s wait and see what he says.
Estragon: Good idea.
Vladimir: Let’s wait till we know exactly how we stand [….] I’am curious to hear what he has to offer. Then we’ll take it or leave it.
Estragon: On the other hand it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes.
At one point, the arrival of two other man, Pozzo and Lucky gives them some pleasure when they are waiting for Godot. Pozzo is the master and Lucky is the slave. Pozzo treats Lucky like an animal and Lucky behaves like a devoted dog. Pozzo controls Lucky leads around on a rope. Lucky does not speak too much and carrying a heavy bag which he never puts down except an order by his master Pozzo.
In Vladimir and Estragon questions, Pozzo answers that Lucky wants to ‘impress’ him, so that he would not sell him. Lucky speaks only once in the play. After Pozzo and Lucky leave, Vladimir and Estragon go back into their routine of waiting for someone (Godot) who will come and change their lives.
Later in the evening, a small boy arrives and announce that Godot ‘cannot come today but he will come tomorrow’ (Beckett, p.68). He says that he works for Godot as a goat herder. The two tramps Vladimir and Estragon, have been waited together for fifty years in a meaningless existence. When they think of suicide as a way, suddenly they remembers that while one of them may die, the other might live on. But they finally decide to go and pass the night, and continue their waiting the following day (Massoud, p.47).
In Act II the same thing is repeated, the waiting and talk continue, Pozzo and Lucky arrive again, this time Pozzo blind and Lucky dumb, they leave, the Boy arrives to give the same message, and Gogo (Vladimir) and Didi (Estragon) again decide to leave (Berlin, p. 422).
Estragon: [Chews, swallows.] I’m asking you if we’re tied.
Vladimir: How do you mean tied?
Vladimir: But to whom. By whom
Estragon: To your man.
Vladimir: To Godot? Tied to Godot? What an idea! No question of it (Beckett, p.22).
Here we see that in the mean time of their waiting they feel sick but they wait being hopeful that God will come.
In this play Beckett expresses his personal view of human condition through some symbol. “Lucky symbolizes those Christians who believe they can ‘earn God’s favour by doing things which are as senseless as carrying those heavy burdens all the time” (Massoud, p.48).
In the Bible, goats symbolize those who have rejected God. The road is the symbol of the human journey from the infancy to the grave. The tree symbolizes both hope and death and in Christian it symbolizes, Christ’s cross (Massoud, p.47). The habitual activities which help to pass the time of waiting symbolizes our regular habit of living which Camus addresses in his essay (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942).
One of the two characters, Vladimir and Estragon are an example of ‘everyman’, represents modern man and the eternal conflict of human beings – the practical and the intellectual, the body and the mind. The most important symbol of the play – the mystical Godot, who is expected to bring a significant change in the lives of the two tramps but he never comes.
We can take the wait for Godot as the wait for death. Godot may represent the death which ‘not coming today, will surely come tomorrow’ and will bring relief and peace for men in this universe and they will be able to escape from the absurdity of their meaningless existence.
A more important thing of this play is that it presents the human experience of futile waiting, the act of waiting is our habit in this Universe and we do nothing except waiting. Vladimir and Estragon by their waiting symbolize the millions of human beings who wait for something or someone who will come and change their lives, solve their problems and give meaning to their meaningless lives.
The two tramps do not know who or what is Godot, but they wait. Like the tramps human being wait. The landscape where the tramps wait symbolize our earth, where we are living and doing our daily works from born to death like: eating, sleeping, talking, and complaining about which makes our everyday life miserable, feels various kind of physical pain, nightmares and so on.
When Vladimir and Estragon were waiting they talked to each other to pass the time, here passing time is irony. Each minute passed means one step closer to death. In this world, people born and some of them without doing their necessary work, avoiding responsibility wait for God.
When they become bore to their life and does not find any meaning for living they want to commit suicide. Due to our few knowledge, we can know the surface level of our living, we become frustrate in simple matter and want to relief ourself or escape from problems instead to solve it. For this reason, we cannot see the world from our internal mind. It is important to note that suicide is not solution, it is the liberation and escape from the meaningless lives and daily routine of our living.
We see that Estragon has forgotten everything that was happened the day before. He has forgotten about Pozzo and Lucky and the fact that he wanted to hang himself in the tree. Not only that he failed to remember the Macon country that he visited with Vladimir few time ago. We see that “Vladimir and Estragon are largely spared the burden of the past, for their memories are so defective that little of earlier time remains to them” (Hesla, p.133).
Vladimir: We met yesterday. (Silence) Do you not remember?
Estragon: I don’t remember having met anyone yesterday. But to-morrow I won’t remember having met anyone to-day. So don’t count on me to enlighten you. (Beckett, p.
So we can say that like Estragon man also forget everything, their past, present. When people gets new thing they forget the immediate thing.
In the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky we find political interpretations. These two men represent master and slave, capital and labor, wealth and artist in the modern capitalist world.
Pozzo symbolizes dominant and capitalist man in this modern world. Pozzo never tries to understand Lucky’s feelings and pain how hard-work he is doing and he is in. Later he is beaten bitterly and brutally to increase more profits for Pozzo than before. Bickett gives so many hints about to show the contemporary society’s role towards the working class people.
In this modern society this working people are treated like the dog. Pozzo along with Lucky goes outside everyday, does beg and fulfill his demand. Like Pozzo the capitalist people in this world fulfill their motives with rude behavior and later they treat them like an animal even sometimes they do no give their wages properly.
Lucky works hard day and night to fulfill his master’s demand but he experiences bitterness from his master. Even we see that Pozzo eats chicken and throw the bones of chicken towards Lucky because Pozzo treats him as a slave. The wealthy Pozzo represents the capitalist who takes advantage from others and Lucky depicts the harsh reality of common man.
Hesla describes in his The Shape of Chaos that the protagonists Vladimir and Estragon spend their present time and neglect the time to give attention on future. Without giving proper attention on present no one will have enough memory when it will become the past. It seems that people who spend their lives with working, find the meaning of their lives and keep themselves away from waiting for any spiritual expectations which is beyond our physical world.
According to Massoud, Godot arrive in front of the two trumps Vladimir and Estragon as persons: Pozzo and Lucky whom need their help but they do not recognize them. He says that if they were really waiting for God they would have recognize Pozzo and Lucky, and helped them.
When the boy says that Godot will come tomorrow symbolically it means that if who were waiting show kindness to others then God will come. Billions of people like Vladimir and Estragon fails to recognize God and believes in Nietzsche’s theory that ‘God is dead’. Some conversation are given below in this principle:
Pozzo : Help!
Vladimir: Time flows again already. The sun will set, the moon will rise, and we away … from here.
Pozzo : Pity!
Vladimir: Poor Pozzo!
Estragon: I knew it was him.
Vladimir: But it’s not Godot.
Estragon: It’s not Godot?
Vladimir: It’s not Godot.
Estragon: Then who is it?
Vladimir: It’s Pozzo.
Pozzo : Here! Here! Help me up!
Vladimir: He can’t get up.
Estragon: Let’s go.
Vladimir: We can’t.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We’re waiting for Godot (Beckett, p.72-73).
I am also agree with him, he said that God only present as person but he did not say that God always present in our surroundings, if we want we can feel God in our surroundings. He shows only the presence of God and man’s inability to do not understand God’s arrival. But in my paper I am trying to show human’s miserable condition in this capitalist socity.
The drama Waiting for Godot different people things or takes it in different way. It is a reference of existentialist philosophy. In my paper I was showing the problem of modern capitalist society using some symbolic significance. I also showed that modern man lost his connection to home, become mechanized and does not find any meaning to their life.
- Massoud, Mary M.F. “Beckett’s Godot: Nietzsche Defied.” Irish University Review. vol. 40, no. 2, Autumn/Winter 2010, pp. 42-53. JSTOR, www.jstor.org. Accessed March 30, 2018.
- Berlin, Normand. “Traffic of Our Stage: Why ‘Waiting for Godot’.” The Massachusetts Review. vol. 40, no. 3, Autumn 1999, pp. 420-434. JSTOR, www.jstor.org. Accessed March 30, 2018.
- Gans, Eric. “Beckett and the Problem of Modern Culture.” University of Wisconsin Press. Vol. 11, no. 2, Issue 35 (1982), pp. 3-15. JSTOR, www.jstor.org. Accessed March 30, 2018.
- Hesla, David H. “The Shape of Chaos: An Interpretation of the Art of Samuel Beckett.” The University of Minnesota Press, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 444-445. JSTOR, www.jstor.org. Accessed March 30, 2018.