CHARACTERS AS SYMBOLS
At this stage of the teaching
of the text, it should be quite clear to the students that GODOT is not about the social
or political situation of any particular people or individuals. As Andrew Kennedy
observes, the characters names, Estragon, Vladmir, Pozzo and Lucky, are respectively
French, Russian, Italian and English (35). That the main characters, Vladmir and Estragon,
are stripped almost to the bare of any social background has led many critics to
convincingly conclude that they represent Everyman, Vladmir representing the intellectual
dimension and Estragon the physical dimension of man.
Without first giving this revelation to
students, the teacher may assign them to look closely at the two characters and to write
on a piece of paper any noticeable differences between the two, using the binary
opposition model (for example good/evil, light/darkness, sun/moon). The following is
likely to be the consensus of the class:
|He often takes off his hat and peers inside it as if it
||He often takes off his boots and peers inside them as if they
|He has read the Bible thoroughly. He scrutinizes especially
the gospels, on the subject of salvation.
||He has no interest in Bible stories. All he
remembers from the Bible are the maps of the Holy Land which were painted in color; he
particularly remembers the color of the Red Sea.
|His breath stinks.
||His feet stinks.
|He has a sense of dignity.
||He has no sense of dignity.
|He has a good memory
||He has a bad memory. He only remembers who gave him
food and who kicked him the previous day, thingsthat have to do with the body.
|He is compassionate.
||He is violently inclined.
|He has a will to live.
||He once attempted suicide by drowning in the Rhone and
Vladmir fished him out.
If these differences are probed from
students and orderly put on the blackboard for all to see, it should not be hard to
convince them (if they have not reached the conclusion themselves) to agree with many
critics that Vladmir and Estragon are the intellectual and physical components of man.
Although one would be tempted to use the usual dichotomy body/spirit, on a closer look
Vladmir hardly represents the spirit; after all, "his breath stinks" (33).
Students here, as elsewhere, should be asked
to give other textual evidence to show that the two characters are actually one. For
example, Vladmir and Estragon say that they have been inseparable for the past fifty
years. Also, their reason for not committing suicide to escape their misery is that they
are afraid one of them may not die. In fact, many times they think that their lot would be
better off if they separated and they decide to do so, but they do not act on it.
Clearly, this analysis of Vladmir and
Estragon logically leads to the conclusion that the play is about man in general waiting
for Godot. At this stage of teaching the text, the question of Godot's identity seems
to OC Goldmine