Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1906. Beckett was a playwright, writer and poet. He was considered to be one of the key writers who wrote in the style of the theatre of the absurd. The theatre of the absurd are plays in which the characters are caught up in hopeless situations and in a plot that is very expansive and without meaning. Beckett’s first play titled “Waiting for Godot” which was translated into English from French. “Waiting for Godot” was one of his most famous plays and is renowned throughout the world.
Beckett received the Nobel Prize in 1969 for literature and passed way in 1989.
Samuel Beckett uses many techniques to emphasize the themes of friendship, dependency, loyalty, uncertainty and ambiguity. Beckett also uses various literature techniques such as puns and mirrors. The use of black humor is used to lighten up the dim, dark vibe given off by the situations and scenarios.
The theme of uncertainty can be witnessed throughout the play; we see this from the use of language.
We can see from the following quote taken from Act 1 page 16 where Vladimir and Estragon are having a conversation and Estragon says “he should be here. He didn’t say for sure he’d come. And if he doesn’t?…” This quote shows that both Estragon and Vladimir are both confused and uncertain about whether Godot will arrive and if they were even meant to be waiting for him today. This might show the lack of self assurance, because Vladimir and estragon aren’t self assured and are always uncertain of whether what they are think is right and therefore they depend on each other to help. This also relates to another theme, the theme of friendship and dependency, that both characters rely on each other and that without each other they would be hopeless.
Friendship, dependency and loyalty are themes seen in the play. Even from the very beginning of the play the theme of friendship and dependency exists, on the first page Vladimir says to Estragon that he would be “nothing more than a little heap of bones” without him. This friendship and dependency can be seen again when Estragon cannot take off his boot without Vladimir offering his help. During act one on page 32 Estragon tries to wipe Luckeys tears off his cheek but instead lucky kicks him.
When Estragon whelps in pain and says “I cant walk”, Vladimir offers to carry him. This illustrates the friendship and loyalty that Vladimir and Estragon have towards each other. The theme of Loyalty cannot only be seen through Vladimir and estragon, but can also be seen through the relationship between Lucky and Pozzo. Again on page 32 when Vladimir asks “you want to get rid of him?” Pozzo replies ” I do…”. Despite Pozzo allowing Lucky to depart, Lucky is reluctant to; this shows the loyalty that Lucky had gained throughout the years that he has been with Pozzo.
Another theme that appears within the dramatic works of Beckett is the theme of ambiguity. Ambiguity can be seen within the play “Waiting for Godot” in the way lines are being said. The language that the characters use is very unclear and allows different ways of thinking. An example of this is on page 29 when Pozzo places the pipe in his mouth and says, “The second is never as sweet…as the first, I mean. But it’s sweet just the same.” This quote struck me as being ambiguous because he first states that the pipe isn’t “as sweet” as the second but then says “it’s sweet just the same”. I feel that Beckett might have used ambiguity to give the reader or audience the chance to see two different sides to the scene or dialogue. This is usually done using black humor, which allows the audience to both laugh and be serious at the same time.
Both black humor and comedy can be seen within the play. Black humor and comedy is humor generated through topics that are considered to be taboo or laughter that is created from someone else’s pain and suffering. On page 12 while Estragon is struggling with his boot Vladimir asks “It hurts?” and Estragon answers “Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!”. This shows the use of black humor because at this point everyone in the audience would be laughing at Estragon’s hardship but at the same time wondering if it is right to be laughing. I think the Beckett might have used black humor to teach us a lesson. By using black humor Beckett allows the audience to laugh at others pain, but at the same time while laughing the audience is wondering why they are laughing and is it right to be laughing at someone else’s suffering.
The literature technique of mirrors is used within the play, many critics have wondered if Godot was meant to be God, this is because we never find out who Godot is. A quote that supports this case can be seen on page 19 when Estragon and Vladimir are talking about Godot coming and then they mention that they are waiting for him because it’s “A kind of prayer” and a “vague supplication”. This could be perceived as Estragon and Vladimir asking God for advice or praying for Gods help.
From the mirror of Godot we could say that Estragon and Vladimir can be seen as the two thieves that were crucified beside Christ. A quote that supports this can be seen in act 1 on page 14 when Vladimir begins to tell the story “Our Savior. Two thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other one damned.” This quote could be interpreted as Estragon and Vladimir being the two thieves. I suspect that Beckett might have used mirrors to give meaning to the plot and shed some light on what is happening. If you imagine it as the two thieves asking and waiting God to come and forgive them and set them free.
Through the use of various literature techniques such as mirrors, black humor and comedy, the reader can successfully reflect back on the issues and themes that are discussed and portrayed in this play. In conclusion, Beckett uses these techniques and themes to create meaning and shed some light on the gloomy and confusing plot. This then entices the reader and audience to continue to watch or read and allows them to think much more about what they have just witnessed.