Discussion Paper #7
Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett s Waiting for Godot is a play without meaning. Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) go on for pages with meaningless jibber-jabber. The setting is an obscure place with no distinguishable characteristics; there is only a tree and a road to decorate the mundane landscape. We have no knowledge of where they are in particular; we are oblivious to what time, year, or day it is. The addition of random and weird characters only further emphasizes the piece s dissonance. But in this seemingly pointless attempt one is able to find Beckett s genius. Out of frivolous banter springs the profound significance of Beckett s critique.
It s fortunate that Beckett shied away from public life; this way, it leaves his works more susceptible to reader interpretation, rather than having the facts scribed in stone. I happen to believe that Beckett meant for his play to be a statement about religion, particularly Christianity. The play is riddled with Biblical references, most of which aren t necessarily positive. I wouldn t consider them negative either. The most prominent characteristics about the Biblical suggestions are the contradictions. Close to the beginning of the play Vladimir is asked what he remembers about the Gospels, and he replies, I remember the maps of the Holy Land. Coloured they were. Very pretty. The Dead Sea was pale blue. The very look of it made me thirsty. That s where we ll go, I used to say, that s where we ll go for our honeymoon. We ll swim. We ll be happy. Later on he compares himself to Christ saying, All my life I ve compared myself to Christ. Estragon says that he follows in the footsteps of Christ but all he can remember about the book that tells his story is the pretty maps a blatant contradiction. This is an example of the many times during Waiting for Godot that Beckett takes shots at the typical Christian. I doubt that he was casting judgment on the religion itself, rather than those who claim to be a part of it. People associate themselves with a religion, but are selective in which practices they choose to follow. They pay most attention to the superficial details rather than making an honest effort to get into the depth of it all. But if their or another s character is called into question, they are quick to revert back to religion as a way to qualify their moral or civil nature.
The word Godot undeniably sounds like God. This Godot is the reason that Didi and Gogo are where they are. I hardly believe that the two main characters are supposed to be laudable in their vigilance. To most people, I assume, they are quite pathetic. They don t do anything anything! They don t talk about anything of substance. They are lazy and rather stupid. From the first page on, I pictured them as two tramps. They wait in the middle of nowhere for no reason whatsoever. All we know, all they know, is that they are waiting for Godot, who, even by the end of the play, doesn t arrive. This is a statement about the complacency induced by Christianity or other religions. It s sort of like a spin off the clich , You re so heavenly minded that you re no earthly good. Some have a tendency to depend so heavily on their religion that they wait for God to fix all their problems for them, instead of taking the initiative and exerting the maximum effort on their own behalf. It s a comfort zone the if God wanted things to be different, he would have done it by now attitude. Once again, Beckett isn t striking at Christianity itself; he s attacking the subsequent attitude that often follows in its wake that prevents humanity from realizing the potency for action that we possess here on earth.