A Persona Of Godot in Waiting For Godot Play

Categories: Waiting For Godot

The entirety of Samuel Beckett’s 1952 play Waiting for Godot is spent listening to two men bicker about everything and nothing all at once as they wait by a bare willow for a man that never arrives. In this allegory about the cyclical nature of our habits, Godot is slowly revealed through the interactions of the handful of characters and yet is still left with a vague character, just as the rest of the characters. Samuel Beckett is known to have claimed that Godot is not in fact a representation of God and that the name is just a coincidence, but of course with the heavy religious undertones present throughout the script, the correlations are pretty easy to find so writing a paper about how Godot is not divine would prove substantially more difficult.

In order to confirm the divinity of Godot, it is essential to be able to compile a list of things that are revealed of him through the text.

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Much of these revelations are through the messenger boy(s) that act as the in-between for Vladimir and Godot. From the first messenger, the audience learns that Godot has at least two brothers that work for him; one to tend the sheep and one to tend the goats. We also learn that, while he takes care of both boys by giving them food and a loft to sleep in, he beats the shepherd yet appears to show favoritism to the goat-herd as he has never laid a hand on the boy.

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If taken through a biblical standpoint, the shepherd could refer to the Christ as he is beaten and abused just as Christ was beaten and crucified. Christ cares for his “sheep,” otherwise known as the Christian flock. The goat-herd could refer to the devil or adversary which makes it all the more interesting that both boys are shown to co-habitat the loft As shown in Job, the devil is not punished for his deeds as he takes no responsibility for his goats. Goats are used in the bible to symbolize all others who are not “sheep” or people of Christ as shown in Matthew 25:31-46 where the sheep and goats are separated by the acts and characters they expressed throughout their lifetimes. If the boys are in fact representations of the supernatural, it would greatly explain the timidness they express in approaching Gogo and Didi and also account for Gogo’s outburst at the first messenger in which he exclaims, “That’s all a pack of lies! Tell us the truth!” after the boy affirms to Didi that he is both native to those parts and belongs there. He is not a native to France or to the plane of existence that natural people reside in at all, therefore, he is timid because he is not meant to interact with the likes of us.

Going off of the first messenger being something likened to the devil, this sets up a deeper role for the two main protagonists who are waiting for Godot or “God.” In an interaction with Pozzo, Estragon introduces himself as “Adam.” This is not his name but can instead be interpreted as the role he takes between Didi and himself. Gogo is much more earthly-based, concerning himself mostly with sleep, food, and how he fills his time rather than with how much time has actually passed. Didi feels time. He understands that time is passing even if no one is around to confirm that for him. He is shown from the beginning with his analysis of the story of the two thieves to have his doubts about who God is and the validity of the religious accounts, noting that only one of the four gospel writers even mentions that one of the thieves was saved. His doubtful nature and his acute awareness of the changes within the tree are a convincing parallel to his role as the Eve of the pair. The tree is the tree of knowledge that Eve eats the fruit off of. The change in Didi between Act I and Act II is that he becomes more aware, more knowledgeable, of the events around him which is symbolized in the four or five leaves that have sprouted on the tree. So if Gogo is Adam, and Didi is Eve, then who else would they be waiting for than God?

The second messenger, while having a much shorter stage appearance than the first, provides much more conclusive evidence into who and what Godot actually is. We learn from this boy, presumably the shepherd, that Godot does nothing and that he has a white beard. Vladimir seems distressed at the reveal that Godot has a white beard as there is silence proceeded by him crying out, “Christ have mercy on us!” near the end of Act II. So what is so significant about Godot’s white beard? The answer can be found in the seemingly nonsensical ramblings of Lucky in his monologue. Picking through the nonsense “quaquaquas” and repetitive phrases, a coherent thought is expressed. “Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God ... with a white beard ... outside time without extension who from the heights of divine … loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown…” While there is more that Lucky has to say, these few phrases at the beginning begin to paint a picture of who Godot really is. Godot is God, outside of time. He is said to love us dearly, yet the boy says that Godot does nothing. Does this make him a clockwork god, and if so, is this the reason that Didi is so taken back?

Assuming that the rest of the argument is found sound, what kind of God is Godot? At the very least, it can be said that he is not a god that keeps with his appointments. He is also not a god that interacts directly with his subjects. What is known about Godot is not how he is but rather how he is received. The duty to remain in waiting seems to be a self-imposed punishment on the pair. Gogo has not met Godot and yet is worried of being tied to Godot; stuck. Vladimir sees Godot as some kind of savior who will fix everything upon his arrival. He has sent him a prayer of some sort in hopes that he will offer something and save them from, at the end, suicide. At the end, when Gogo asks what would happen if they were to drop Godot altogether and quit their waiting, Didi answers that Godot would punish them. Pozzo describes Godot as someone who has Didi’s, “future in his hands… at least your immediate future.” For someone that Didi claims to not yet be tied down to, Godot, a man not seen, has an enormous amount of control over his subjects.

An interesting theory presented is that Godot does in fact appear in the novel but arrives disguised in the form of the arrogant and self-centered Pozzo. Pozzo does not give the men a good first impression as he is first introduced whipping Lucky who collapses with all the heavy bags. This sight appalls Vladimir whose first reaction is to offer aid, although he is stopped by Estragon. For the next while, Didi expresses his disdain for the treatment of Lucky, exploding, “ It’s a scandal! To treat a man… like that… no… a human being...no… it’s a scandal!” It can be said that Lucky is a representation of how Vladimir feels inwardly. He asks constantly as to why Lucky does not put his bags down, a question the audience should be asking about Vladimir. Why does he not just put down his duties when he is clearly unhappy though he lies and convinces Gogo to lie they both are? The second question Vladimir asks repeatedly to Pozzo is, “You want to get rid of him?” After Pozzo confirms that he does want to and relays of all the time spent with Lucky, Didi says, “ And now you turn him away? Such an old and faithful servant! After having sucked all the good out of him you chuck him away like a … like a banana skin. Really…” With Didi empathizing with Lucky, it is possible that by Pozzo wanting to abandon the loyal Lucky Didi feels that he himself has been forsaken by God in his constant waiting.

If Godot is God/is Pozzo, then he is illustrated to be a selfish god that only feeds his people the bones when he is done; that can make anyone believe him to be merciful by placing the blame of his indifference onto those he works as pack mules; that uses his servants for his own entertainment; that values no one life more than any other but can at least relay one heck of a sob story. Didi considers leaving at some point but Pozzo convinces him to wait for at least nightfall before leaving. After he leaves, the boy messenger finally approaches, stating he was afraid to approach. It could be that he is afraid because, as previously stated, he does not belong in the plane of the living, but it could also be said that perhaps he was afraid of Pozzo.

Pozzo as God is an interesting concept, especially concerning Act II where his is blind and in need. As God, this would be one method in separating the sheep from the goats. Going back to Matthew 25: 41-43:

“Then he shall say also to them on the left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For when I was an hungered, and you gave me not meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you clothed me not; and in prison, and you visited me not.”

Didi and Gogo take a long time in considering whether or not to help Pozzo yet do so eventually. When it comes to helping the least of these, who better to fill the role than the pitiful, awful, and now blind Pozzo?

Whoever Godot is, whether he be the insufferable Pozzo in disguise or as Lucky describes him, “a personal god with white beard outside time,” the religious symbolism abounds which makes describing Godot as anything less than a being outside of time, a dimension highly irrelevant in the play, a feat for a better author than myself.

Works cited

  1. Beckett, S. (1952). Waiting for Godot. Grove Press.
  2. Cohn, R. (1990). A Casebook on "Waiting for Godot". Grove Press.
  3. Cohn, R. (1994). Samuel Beckett: "Waiting for Godot"/Endgame. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Esslin, M. (2006). The Theatre of the Absurd. Vintage.
  5. Gontarski, S. E. (Ed.). (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Beckett. Cambridge University Press.
  6. Kenner, H. (1988). A Reader's Guide to Samuel Beckett. Syracuse University Press.
  7. Pilling, J. (2006). Beckett before Godot. Cambridge University Press.
  8. Rabinovitz, R. (2001). Waiting for Godot in New Orleans: A Field Guide. Theater, 31(3), 7-20.
  9. Worth, K. (2007). Modernism and the Architecture of Private Life. Columbia University Press.
  10. Zeifman, H. (1982). The Persona of Samuel Beckett. Cornell University Press.
Updated: Feb 14, 2024
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A Persona Of Godot in Waiting For Godot Play. (2024, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-persona-of-godot-in-waiting-for-godot-play-essay

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