Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Waiting for Godot(Something to Happen)

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Waiting for Godot

(Something to Happen).

Estragon And if he doesn't come?

Vladimir We'll come back tomorrow.

Estragon And then the day after tomorrow.

Vladimir Possibly.

Estragon And so on.

Vladimir The point is--

Waiting…..Silence…..Waiting….. Waiting for what? Anything, nothing, everything, anything… something. This is Godot. Waiting for Godot is a play about everything and nothing all at the same time. As a microcosm of human existence, each element of the play can be seen as a facet of life itself. The protagonists of the work, Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for a man named Godot. Who is Godot? That is not the point. The point lies in the waiting. Godot is that which we wait for. Samuel Beckett's 150's existential commentary attempts to dramatize an element that by its very nature, lacks drama. To add to the paradox, Waiting for Godot is both empty and full. This is perhaps why critics and fellow playwrights have raved that this play has changed the way the stage is seen. It speaks like we speak, it thinks like we think and perhaps is what we are, a paradox.

Estragon Nothing to be done.

This is the line that opens the play, and is its essence throughout. The protagonists Vladimir and Estragon, two codependent vagabonds are waiting for a man whom they have never met, named Godot. On its face this situation hardly seems the stuff of great theater, but it is what these elements represent that draw upon our deepest senses. The playwright, Samuel Beckett, battled depression all his life, and rather pessimistically, saw human existence as stretches of waiting. Godot is that which we wait for. The story is not about Godot however. It is about our waiting, or rather about us trying to find meaning in our waiting. The play's premise is then life. Everything in the play represents what fills our lives. Godot is something never achieved, something never finished. We may encounter aspects of life that relate to Godot i.e. the boy. However we will never find Godot. An underlying theme is hope, and without that hope, there is no point to life. Meanwhile, we do have Godot, as do Vladimir and Estragon, and our lives continue on, full of asides and detours.

Estragon No, nothing is certain.

If life is what this play is, then the set and the characters must be features found in real life. Vladimir and Estragon are found sitting along a country road next to a tree. They encounter a master and a slave, in addition to a young boy. Who are these people? What do these things represent in life. There are of course many meanings, but a few fit with the theme better than some. The constant factor of Estragon's boots and Lucky's hat are there for comic relief, which Beckett does use to keep things from remaining too dull. However, the boots could represent material possessions in life, and how they are often more trouble than what they are worth. The hat represents confidence, power, or the power to think, such as a thinking cap. The road that the two main characters sit on is an unvarying symbol of choice, or life. Vladimir and Estragon sit on the road of life, at a point of waiting, for Godot(something to happen). The tree behind the action stands for a lot of things. For one, it represents the passage of time in the play, which is key to the theme. In between the first and second acts the tree has grown leaves, which is one factor that curtails our belief that the play takes place on consecutive nights. The tree represents a way out for the two players. They are searching for meaning of Godot, and the meaning of their waiting for Godot. The tree is a way out, by death, meaning suicide. The theory is that in death they would find the meaning of life, such as the quandary goes. Pozzo and Lucky, master and slave, are a bit harder to figure out. For one, they are a specific relationship in life that while complicated in itself, exists for the amusement of others, Vladimir and Estragon. On the other hand they represent relationships in general, and how no matter what the status of two individuals are, over time they become dependant on each other. In the second act Pozzo is blind, and Lucky is mute, thus they rely on each other. Beckett could be making a statement of world affairs and how the powerful rely on the weak just the same as weak rely on the powerful. In Lucky's duties as slave to Pozzo he has to carry many things. The list of symbols could continue to the fine minute differences between characters, to the type of speech that is used in the dialogue of the play. Just as the play is a paradox, so is the previous list, because I don't believe that the symbols matter, nor are they concrete or substantial in anyway. This was Beckett's point.

Vladimir We've nothing more to do here.

Estragon Nor anywhere else.

In considering the assignment of discussing the main points of the play, and how the absurdist method affects them, I seriously contemplated turning in a few short lines, stating

The point is there is no point, and yet, as humans we constantly look for points. As far as the absurdist method's effect, the theme itself is absurd.

I could not bring myself to be so bold, although I wish I could, perhaps my freshman year I would have. ( More time to make up for the grade that would have followed). Samuel Beckett himself called the play existentialist and absurd. The movement of existentialism denies meaning of any form to be attached to existence. Samuel Beckett would have said, "The play is about two men, waiting for Godot, who never comes." He denied that Godot was God. He wrote the play to point out that all these things we have in life, all our relationships and items, mean nothing. My previous statement about everything and nothing, this is what I mean. My point in wanting to hand in a paper with very little written, is that there are no correct answers as to what the themes of this play are. Mr. Beckett went to great trouble to provide no definable timeline for the action. He went to great trouble to give no definite answers to our impending questions of who each character symbolizes. Of course, one would not write a play about nothing, for nothing. One does so, to provide a blank slate. Waiting for Godot is what you bring to it. Interpretations vary as each audience member or reader varies. Every understanding of life provides a new meaning to the play. This is the essence of existentialism and the theater of the absurd provides us with the proper disconnect to make this possible.

Absurdism is a style of playwriting that through certain techniques, distances the audience from identifying with the characters, setting and plot, so they can better identify with the theme of the play. The very idea is absurd, and perhaps obscure. Waiting for Godot is steeped in Absurdism. There are very few identifying factors any typical audience member would feel for the characters of the play. The two protagonists are homeless men, sitting on an unremarkable country road, on a unremarkable mound, under an unremarkable tree. None of the characters seem to have much of a reliable memory, so there is no talk of a specific past that anyone would be able to identify with. There is only the moment to be considered and this is the narrowing of focus that Absurdism yearns to achieve. Without Absurdism Waiting for Godot would be a gobbled mess of stereotypes and social stigmas. With Absurdism Waiting for Godot is, if not a commentary of life, then a raising of questions about life. The answers are to be provided by each reader and audience member. Those answers come from personal philosophy and beliefs. Two people sitting next to each other could receive the play in two entirely different manners, with one seeing the whole thing as an affirmation of hope in God, and the other viewing it as a statement totally against the existence of God. Meaning and symbols of this play rely entirely on the credo of those watching it. Samuel Beckett wouldn't have had it any other way.

Vladimir Well? Shall we go?

Estragon Yes, let's go.

They do not move.

Everything and Nothing. Just as this paper seems to contradict itself, so does Waiting for Godot. The play is about life and how we fill the passing of time. Samuel Beckett did not portray how the audience would choose to spend their time, he just provided a blank slate for the audience to draw on. He allows specific meaning to be found within each of us. Truthfully, he could have written a tragic-comedy in fifty acts rather than two, and it would not have changed a bit. Absurdism has a profound effect on the play, for without Absurdism this play could have never existed, it is a true child of the movement. As absurd as the play was, there is an element of humanity that we find at every turn. There is truth to be found in it all, right down to the manner in which Vladimir and Estragon conversed, like two old friends finishing each other's sentences. Perhaps the one statement by the playwright I can glean from the work, is that life ends like the play ends, with nothing finished and nothing resolved

They do not move.

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