Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot As An Existentialist Play

4485 words - 18 pages

Waiting for Godot as an Existentialist Play

          The play, Waiting For Godot, is centred around two men, Estragon and Vladimir, who are waiting for a Mr. Godot, of whom they know little. Estragon admits himself that he may never recognize Mr. Godot, "Personally I wouldn't know him if I ever saw him." (p.23). Estragon also remarks, "… we hardly know him." (p.23), which illustrates to an audience that the identity of Mr. Godot is irrelevant, as little information is ever given throughout the play about this indefinable Mr. X. What is an important element of the play is the act of waiting for someone or something that never arrives. Western readers may find it natural to speculate on the identity of Godot because of their inordinate need to find answers to questions. Beckett however suggests that the identity of Godot is in itself a rhetorical question. It is possible to stress the for in the waiting for …: to see the purpose of action in two men with a mission, not to be deflected from their compulsive task.

" Estragon: … Let's go.

Vladimir: We can't.

Estragon: Why not?

Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot." (p.14).

The essence of existentialism concentrates on the concept of the individual's freedom of choice, as opposed to the belief that humans are controlled by a pre-existing omnipotent being, such as God. Estragon and Vladimir have made the choice of waiting, without instruction or guidance, as Vladimir says, "He didn't say for sure he'd come" (p.14), but decides to "wait till we know exactly how we stand" (p.18).

Albert Camus, an existentialist writer, believed that boredom or waiting, which is essentially the breakdown of routine or habit, caused people to think seriously about their identity, as Estragon and Vladimir do. In The Plague, Camus suggests that boredom or inactivity causes the individual to think. This is also similar to the idea of meditation, an almost motionless activity, allowing the individual to think with clarity. Camus, and other existential writers, suggested that attempting to answer these rhetorical questions could drive someone to the point of insanity. The tramps continually attempt to prove that they exist, in order to keep their sanity:

" We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression that we exist?" (p.69).

Waiting in the play induces boredom as a theme. Ironically Beckett attempts to create a similar nuance of boredom within the audience by the mundane repetition of dialogue and actions. Vladimir and Estragon constantly ponder and ask questions, many of which are rhetorical or are left unanswered. During the course of the play, certain unanswered questions arise: who is Godot? Where are Gogo and Didi? Who beats Gogo? All of these unanswered questions represent the rhetorical questions that individuals ask but never get answers for within their lifetime. Vis a vis is there a God? Where do we come from? Who is responsible for our suffering? The German...

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