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Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot - An existential play

 


Repetitiveness in Waiting for Godot. Even the very act of waiting becomes repetitive and cyclical.
Estragon keeps asking Vladimir if they can leave, only to receive the response that they are waiting for Godot.
“a kind of prayer...a vague supplication," which he is currently considering. “ Vladimir and Estragon ask something of Godot in a very religious way, especially when they mention coming in on their hands and knees.

Estragon repeating himself - due to his poor memory. Alzheimer’s disease?

"made in God's image." When Pozzo asks Estragon for his name, he says “adam”.

Estragon compares himself to Christ when he decides to go barefoot. When Vladimir tells him not to compare himself to Christ, Estragon responds that "all my life I've compared myself to him."
Vladimir recognizes Pozzo from before, and the boy from “yesterday” again showing repetition.
The end of Act I establishes Vladimir and Estragon's hopelessness. Even when they both agree to go, and Vladimir says "Yes, let's go," the two men do not move. Even their resolution to go is not strong enough to produce action. This inability to act renders Vladimir and Estragon unable to determine their own fates. Instead of acting, they can only wait for someone or something to act upon them.
hat switching is endless…
Estragon's statement that he will go and get a carrot, followed by the stage directions "he does not move," - Inability to act.
Inability to act to help Pozzo.
The repetition of the final two lines from the previous act at the play's conclusion shows the continued importance of repetition and parallelism in Waiting for Godot. However, the characters have switched lines from the previous act, suggesting that ultimately, despite their differences, Vladimir and Estragon are really interchangeable after all.

Waiting for Godot:

Existentialism is a philosophy that repudiates the idea of religion bringing meaning to life, and advocates the idea that individuals are instrumental in creating meaning in their lives. Waiting for Godot shows that the individual must take action instead of just sitting around waiting for a God that may or may not bring salvation.
Existentialism: All of humanity is wasting their lives due to in inaction and waiting for the salvation of a deity, when that divine being may or may not even exist. The existentialist argument is that humans must break the habit of expecting salvation, and take matters into their own hands in order to bring meaning into their lives and live as free men.
Vladimir says “Habit is a great deadener” (85).

Inaction:
The very first words of the play are Estragon’s “Nothing to be done”. This is repeated several more times. “There’s nothing we can do” (62).

Estragon says “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful."(35)

Many times Estragon says “Lets go”, but Vladimir always reminds him that they can’t as they are “waiting for Godot” (66). This inability to act renders Vladimir and Estragon unable to determine their own fates. Instead of acting, they can only wait for someone or something to act upon them.

In the entire play Estragon and Vladimir never refer to each other as Estragon and Vladimir, but rather Gogo and Didi. Vladimir is also referred to as Albert, perhaps a reference to Albert Einstein? Despite Vladimir and Estragon being two distinct characters on the stage, they constantly finish off each other’s sentences. In this sense Estragon and Vladimir are indistinguishable, and represent all of humanity, as Vladimir later says “all mankind is us” (74). In the second act, Pozzo becomes all of humanity as Estragon tells us.
- Interestingly the viewer is supposed to watch the play from a distance. But if taken to the next level, all of life seems inactive when seen from a distance. Becket depicts humanity as bums seen from the distance of the stage and shows just how small the achievements of mankind are when seen from a distance.

 

"habit is a great deadener."(p. 58) Vladimir
Whenever Estragon and Vladimir make a decision, the stage directions dictate that "They do not move,"

Estragon is the more mundane character of the two, while Vladimir is the more intellectual character. For the carrot: the more Estragon eats, the worse it gets, whereas for Vladimir, the more he eats the better it tastes. This distinguishes the two, and there is “Nothing you can do about it” and there is “No use struggling”, as “One is what one is”, since the “essential doesn’t change”. The struggle of life is shown in an existential way, as it is useless fight in the struggle of life, because the outcome of life will always remain the same – death.

When talking about suicide, Vladimir and Estragon decide no to “do anything. It’s safer” (11).

Inability to act when Pozzo, Estragon, and Vladimir exchange adieus, but the stage directions state that “No one moves” (40). Page 50: “They do not move” stage directions.

 

Human relationships are existential: Pozzo and Lucky are literally tethered by a cord in a master-slave relationship. Pozzo who seeks friendship from Estragon and Vladimir ends up forming a meaningless friendship with them, much like his meaningless relationship with Lucky, which dehumanizes both of them.
The friendship between Vladimir and Estragon seemingly overcomes the existential whenVladimir wakes up Estragon because he “felt lonely” (9). Estragon and Vladimir are tethered by an invisible bond in a relationship that can best be characterized as friendship. While at times they hate each other, they cannot live without one another or they would die of boredom.

 

OTHER EXISTENTIALISM:
Source: http://www.essayfox.com/waiting-for-godot/existential-inability-to-act.php Existential question: "why are we here?" (p. 51). Answer is waiting for Godot.

Estragon and Vladimir are already outcasts of society, all alone in the middle of nowhere.
While waiting for Godot in Act II, Estragon tells Vladimir “We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist” (63).
Existential – Vladimir has a monologue while Pozzo is pleading for help: “What are we doing here, that is the question… one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come” (74).
Vladimit says “In an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness” (75)!
 Pozzo reaffirms “one day we were born, one day we shall die” (83).
Estragon says “All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud” (55).

Doubt is instilled in religion when there is a discrepancy in the 4 Gospels, when “only one speaks of a thief being saved” (5). The bible is not above suspicion, but the majority of people still believe it because as Estragon says “people are bloody ignorant apes” (6).

 

Estragon is not even sure what they asked Godot for. And Vladimir responds that it was “nothing very definite… a kind of prayer… a vague supplication” (12).

 

Pozzo remarks that “I might as well have been in his shoes and he in mine. If chance had not willed otherwise. To each one his due” (26). This chance factor is a serious existential attack on the religious concept of free will. Interestingly Pozzo shows how ridiculous his own existence is, as it is only a product of chance.

 

Pozzo and Lucky’s coming was all an act to entertain Vladimir and Pozzo. Becket questions whether life itself is just a mere entertainment to pass to the time while waiting for salvation.

Estragon says “I’ll go and get a carrot” and the stage directions say that He does not move. (63).

Estragon and Vladimir constantly doubt their own experiences. Who can you trust if you can’t even trust yourself?
They will endlessly wait until Godot comes, even though they are unsure whether Godot himself even said he would come.
“time has stopped” (31).

Estragon compares himself to Christ

Estragon “wouldn’t even know [Godot] if [he] saw him (18).
Vladimir says “one of the thieves was saved. It’s a reasonable percentage (4).” 50% was saved!
Pattern of night coming: Estragon and Vladimir respectively say “So long as one knows” and “One can bide one’s time” and “One knows what to expect. No further need to worry” (32).

2006 Philosophy Paradise