Waiting for Godot

Categories: Waiting For Godot

Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, portrays a nihilistic philosophy through two protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon. Throughout Waiting for Godot the two tramps convey a lack of morality, understanding and a lack of purpose. Vladimir and Estragon incessantly persist in chatting about meaningless matters with no intent of acting upon their decisions. Beckett's use of nonsensical circular language expresses the existentialist theme that is consistent throughout Waiting for Godot.

Nihilism is the belief that existence is not real and that there can be no objective basis of truth.

This definition directly relates to the nihilistic philosophy that is behind Waiting for Godot. It indicates that the world and all humanity exist without meaning, purpose, truth or value. Beckett's own interpretation is obvious in Waiting for Godot as when Vladimir tells Estragon that they must return the following evening to keep their appointment once again. However, Vladimir knows that the routine is meaningless: Godot will not come.

ESTRAGON: And if we dropped him? [Pause.

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] If we dropped him?

VLADIMIR: He'd punish us.

VLADIMIR: ...Unless Godot comes.

ESTRAGON: And if he comes?

VLADIMIR: We'll be saved.

Nevertheless the punishment is already apparent to Vladimir: the pointless execution without hope of fulfilment. Estragon and Vladimir are as dependent on Godot as he is on them. They all need an outside witness to have proof of their own existence. Vladimir's confrontation with the boy expresses his doubt over his and Estragon's existence.

BOY: What am I to say to Mr Godot, sir?

VLADIMIR: Tell him... [He hesitates.]...tell him you saw us. [Pause.] You did see us didn't you?

From this extract we can determine Godot's own fear of non-existence and his need for the reassurance of the two tramps' continuing belief in him. Even so Godot is also a nothing figure and this is the only extent to which his existence is real. Nothing is more real than nothing.

Furthermore, Beckett relates nihilism to existentialism consistently by using the introduction of Pozzo and Lucky to highlight this relation.

POZZO: You see my memory is defective.


ESTRAGON: In the meantime nothing happens.

Pozzo's introduction in the previous few lines portrays Beckett's interpretation of nihilistic and existentialist as having physical extensions of the human mind. As Estragon adds to the overall effect of the exchange, he also touches upon the belief that "Anxiety or the sense of anguish, a generalised uneasiness, a fear or dread which is not directed to any specific object. Anguish is the dread of the nothingness of human existence." This indicates to the audience that although Pozzo is concerned with his memory loss, Beckett expresses the lack of caring that the characters establish. This lack of caring enables Beckett's combination of nihilism and existentialism throughout Waiting for Godot and the similarities that define it

In addition to this, a common factor in all of Beckett's drama is that the figures portrayed are all imprisoned.

ESTRAGON: ...Let's go.

VLADIMIR: We can't.

ESTRAGON: Why not?

VLADIMIR: We're waiting for Godot.

The imprisonment of Beckett's protagonists forces the audience's attention upon the extent to which we depend on mobility. Mobility offers the chance of escape from an undesirable situation. Without it we are reduced to a passive, vegetative existence. Beckett portrays this passive existence, this belief that existence is not necessarily real.

ESTRAGON: We always find something, eh, Didi give us the impression we exist?

VLADIMIR: [Impatiently.] Yes, yes, we're magicians.

From this, we can determine that Beckett represents the imprisonments of the human consciousness within the bounds of infinity and eternity. Beckett's so-called nihilism can thus be seen as no more than the necessary outcome of his refusal to deal in generalisations and truths. The existential experience is thus felt as "a succession of attempts to give shape to the void".

Furthermore, the play highlights that life lacks a sense of purpose. This play revolves around two characters waiting for someone who has little proof of existence. This shows that life has no purpose; it's just a waiting game for unknown questions and answers. They discuss having no ties to anything "...Tied to Godot? What an idea! No question of it...". Pozzo questions the fact that something that appears to be human is even human. He says, "I am perhaps not particularly human, but who cares?" This reflects that we should not care if we are human as life is meaningless, thus relating directly to nihilism. Vladimir and Estragon discuss if they should repent their births .

VLADIMIR: Suppose we repented.

ESTRAGON: Repented what?...Our being born?

Perhaps they should as life is so meaningless. It is so meaningless that suicide is as good an option as doing anything else. Estragon says, "One is what one is, the essential doesn't change." His viewpoint tells the audience that no matter what it is impossible to change the circumstances thus giving life no meaning and therefore reflecting the nihilistic philosophy in Waiting for Godot.

In Waiting for Godot Beckett presents the question of what is life without action. He expresses that as life has no substance, living is intangible when one is not sure who or what they are waiting for. In addition to this, there is no substance to Godot to imagine his form.

POZZO: You took me for Godot...

VLADIMIR: ...he's a kind of acquaintance

ESTRAGON: Nothing of the kind, we hardly know him.

VLADIMIR: True...we don't know him very well...but all the same...

ESTRAGON: Personally I wouldn't even know him if I saw him.

Vladimir and Estragon's confusion about the appearance of Godot mirrors that of the audience's. This confusion over Godot's appearance therefore leads to the questioning of his actual existence. Furthermore, Beckett's induced confusion relates to his misuse of time. When Pozzo's watch stops, not only is there confusion on and off stage, but there is also a stoppage of time.

VLADIMIR: Time has stopped.

POZZO: [Cuddling his watch to his ear.] Don't you believe it sir, don't you believe it.

This immediately impresses upon the audience the nihilistic philosophy behind Waiting for Godot. The stoppage of time introduces the audience to a new way of presenting nihilism. As one of nihilism's major definitions suggests "a firm belief that life is meaningless." This statement relates directly to Pozzo as his seemingly busy life is ruled by time and because of this Pozzo loses his meaning in life when time stops.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Waiting for Godot. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/waiting-for-godot-new-essay

Waiting for Godot essay
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