There is no ideal opening sentence to an essay on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. This is something which I have incrementally discovered during the course of my research on the play. Perhaps give a succinct synopsis? Two tramps, waiting at a tree for Godot who never comes – it sounds relatively simple, even to a child, but the reality is that Waiting for Godot is far from elementary. The play presents to the first time reader a whirlwind of confusion, discovery and wonderment.
Faced with the challenge of deliberating upon Beckett’s treatment of time-consciousness in the play further generates panic. How to interpret? How to decide on whose theory is correct (if any theory is correct)? How to transpose ideas into concrete words? How to fill the pages… How to fill the pages is perhaps a useful starting point.
Beckett’s characters are essentially filling time – the act of waiting being the main action in the play. Two acts of virtual nothingness lead one to ponder why Beckett chose to write Godot at all.Though clearly he was experimenting with the “Absurdist” antics of the day, namely those of non-realism and lack of chronological order etc, Beckett goes further still. We as the audience have at least some expectations of what the play will embrace – usually plot, logical language, recognizable setting, development of setting, conflict etc – all the facets that together constitute the traditional arrangement of plays. The two main characters Vladimir and Estragon are tortured within their imprisonment in the staticness and inaction of the play...
.The consciousness of such inaction (or the act of waiting) generates the madness that manifests itself and divides itself between crazy farcical clowning and quieter moments of philosophical lamenting.
Development is nil in the play therefore it can be deduced that what the play consists of – waiting – is akin to human lives minus the ‘plot’. Beckett has subtracted Vladimir and Estragon from the conventional world, from human activity and inflicted on them a challenge.The irony is that this challenge is a million times more difficult that what humans usually consider being a challenge. Frustration abounds them, their world becomes fuzzy and blurred, each day merging into the next with only slight indications of the passage of time, and e. g. the tree sprouts leaves over the course of the two days during which the play is set.
Before examining in the general sense how time relates to the characters in the play it is necessary to first analyse how they themselves consider their situation.Time appears to have become irrelevant and insignificant for the two vagrants, the act of waiting is the sole occupation of their minds and it is almost as if they have created the act of waiting as a specific activity to avoid becoming conscious of the passage of time and experiencing nothingness. Godot is mere fiction, a mental fabrication which they can cling to, hope for while simultaneously providing the audience with hope and a potential source of drama in the play. Their conceptions of time and place are unnaturally indistinct and obscured.They unsuccessfully attempt clarification for instance
when Estragon ponders “But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? Or Monday? ” he is squandering time, putting the play outside all temporal reality while seeming to be immersed in its categories.
Human beings divide their lives into segments – years, months, days, hours etc – take away these essential divisions and madness will initially befall followed by a gradual submission that we can exist without the constraints of numbers and time. There is something strangely comforting therefore about the tramps’ perceptions of time and place.While they assign all their energies to what amounts to an imaginary activity (waiting for Godot) in order to avoid all consciousness of isolation and deprivation this act of lunacy will eventually come to fruition in that they will eventually actually forget about time and mellow into their own small world, the world of Godot-land. Of course the isolation suffered by Vladimir and Estragon is utterly horrific.
They are effectively presented to us as naked, bare, stripped of all the superficial objects and so- called ‘purposes’ which we as human beings seize in order to give ourselves meaning and structure.The hustle and bustle of everyday life is a distraction we’ve essentially manufactured so as to circumvent stopping and waiting, consciously apprehending the passage of time. It is a terrible thing to listen to a ticking clock, to wonder where time goes and most of all to have to wait. The future is daunting for many of us but knowing that there is an end is at least comforting while we ‘struggle’ through life’s events, its joys, its sorrows, its twisted little turns of fate. Waiting is what happens in between our birth and our death – the real events that seek to give our lives signification and essence.Relief will be when the wait is over, though in reality humans tend to draw comfort from mere hope that the wait will end.
Though this statement may not be true in terms of our lives eventually ending (because our death is the one thing that we can be certain of) it is relevant with regard to certain events which happen throughout life. Pain and suffering may end, Godot may arrive (though he is fictional) – hope is ever present and when hope ends life is grim reality. For Vladimir and Estragon the wait will never end. Their only alternative to waiting is suicide which they lack the courage and initiative to carry through.Their tortured personalities are imitative of many characters in Beckett’s plays.
Void of all sociological context and physical devices they panic. The sparseness and emptiness of their world has fruitcaked them, they become mindless creatures who alleviate their boredom through innocuous harebrained chatting and farcical moments of clowning. The tramps arouse laughter in their public despite their alienation from the social norm and despite the total pessimism of their philosophy. The humour generated by these imbeciles is not humour in the true sense; it serves as a reprieve to darker underlying issues.The audience receives it well, the tramps momentarily forget about their plight, everybody is happy yet nobody is happy.
- Maria Montessori
- Cognitive Psychology
- Critical Thinking
- Form Of The Good
- Human Nature
- Immanuel Kant
- Personality Type
- Philosophy Of Life
- Philosophy Of Mind
- Sigmund Freud
- Rene Descartes
- Albert Camus
- John Dewey
- Michel Foucault
- Self Esteem
- Self Reflection
- Self Reliance