Existentialism in Waiting for Godot

 


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Critics call Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett one of the first examples of the Theatre of the Absurd. This school of theater derived on the base of existentialists’ teaching in philosophy and art. Existentialists believed in nothing but conscious existence. But this existence had no sense for them. They emphasized the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe. Another point of existentialist teaching concentrates on the sense of anguish, loss of hope and fear which penetrates all spheres of human existence. Third point of this teaching is a theme of absurdity of our life and absence of meaning. All this characteristics of existentialism can be found in Waiting for Godot play and in general it can be regarded as a bright example of an existentialist absurd art.

This play became a challenge for an audience as it was a completely new type of the play and a bold attempt to give the explanations to the world which had no meaning at all. One set for the two acts stresses the absurd of human life. Beckett states that existence is determined by blind chance. Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for Godot who never arrives and the more they wait the less chances for them to meet Godot they’ve never seen. Actually there were a lot of ideas about who Godot might be as Beckett himself didn’t give an answer. Some critics state that main characters are waiting for God, other give the French translation of the word “boot”. But the main idea here is waiting for somebody to bring sense and understanding to senseless and empty lives. And existentialists know that this will never happen as there is nobody and nothing that can do this.

Another existentialist theme touched by Beckett is the meaningless of time. It was concluded by many critics that second act repeats the first one. It means that for the characters of the play the life is repeated day after day and forms an exclusive circle, where past, present and future and mixed and make no difference. The play is structured this way to let us understand that Godot most probably will not come and the certainty and hope he must have brought with his arrival will not come either. Every day Godot’s messenger doesn’t recognize Vladimir and Estragon and they meet Lucky and Pozzo at the same place. Finally Vladimir and Estragon stay at the same place in the end of the play where we met them at the very beginning and nothing has changed and never will.

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The main theme of the play is the main idea of existentialism – the search of the sense of life. And like all existentialists, Beckett doesn’t give an answer. His characters try to do anything possible to keep themselves busy and to pervert themselves from thinking about the meaningless and vanity of everything they do. “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful?” Estragon complains in the beginning of the play. And this is the most terrible thing that happens to them. The theme of fear and dependence is also examined in the play. These are the topics typical for existentialism teaching. And the attempts of suicide taken by both sound comically and tragically at the same time. Vladimir: What do we do now?

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