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The Second Coming and
Mr. Godot

This paper was written for a Contemporary Drama class I took a few years ago. I'm fairly happy with it, although I now notice holes in the logic so big you could drive a truck through... in any case, enjoy.    Jeffrey Miller

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's existential masterpiece, for some odd reason has captured the minds of millions of readers, artists, and critics worldwide, joining them all in an attempt to interpret the play. Beckett has told them not to read ANYTHING into his work, yet he does not stop them. Perhaps he recognizes the human quality of bringing personal experiences and such to the piece of art, and interpreting it through such colored lenses. Hundreds of theories are expounded, all of them right and none of them wrong. A play is only what you bring to it, in a subconscious connection between you and the playwright.

One popular interpretation of Waiting for Godot is the Second Coming aspect. There is significant "clues" and "evidence" to back up this claim, and as the main tenant of the Existentialist movement, which grew out and of WWII experiences of not only Beckett, but all the other great Existentialists, Camus, Sartre, and Ianesco. It also developed using the writings of Hegal, Schopenhaur, and Nitchze. The main philosophy of Existentialism can be summed up in one statement - "How can one reconcile one's existence with a world devoid of order, norms, or divine guidance." Thus, there is an implied aspect of religion and the questioning there of in any Existential piece, as this is a facet of human society that helps us deal with the Existential Dilemma.

First and foremost is the title itself. Waiting for Godot. Who IS Godot?

VLADIMIR: (Softly) Has he a beard, Mr. Godot?

BOY: Yes Sir.

VLADIMIR: Fair or... (he hesitates)...or black?

BOY: I think it's white, Sir.

(p. 59 A)

Look at any portrait of Yahweh in the last 1500 years, and you will see a Caucasian male with a long flowing white beard, a la "Creation of Man". What else is revealed about Godot's personality?

ESTRAGON: And if we dropped him? (Pause.) If we dropped him?

VLADIMIR: He'd punish us.

(p. 59 B)

VLADIMIR: ...Unless Godot comes.

ESTRAGON: And if he comes?

VLADIMIR: We'll be saved.

(p. 60 B)

Godot is vengeful, yet is also a savior to them. If they leave, they will be punished. Stay, and they are rewarded. Sounds an awful lot like the Judeo-Christian-Islam God. Godot represent a relief from this empty and boring stage, which perhaps represents life. We are all waiting for something, it's how we fill in the time until whatever is going to happen happens that is the subject of the play. Life has no meaning - this play has no meaning.

VLADIMIR: How time flies when one has fun!

(p. 49 A)

Time is flying? But these two can not measure time; for them there is no beginning, and until Godot shows up, there is no end. The time in-between two indeterminate points is one of the subject of this play. What are we supposed to do with our time in this life while waiting for the Judgement Day? Didi and Gogo have fun.

Another good shot at Godot as God is his name, Godot. Let me say that again... GOD-ot. Well, maybe it's a stretch, but the very fact that you could say, without resorting to actually moving the letters around, Waiting for God, seems to have some significance. Further, the title in French include the pronoun On, which has the connotation of meaning People, as in the Race of Man. Therefore, We (Humans) are Waiting for Godot. We as a People, the Human Race, are waiting for God.

The stage is bare, except for the actors and the tree. No works of man exist here, except for what the actors bring with them. So therefore, the tree is terribly important to the setting, and hence the play. Ancient and medieval belief place the universe and world that we live in as the upper bows of the Tree of Existence, with the nether regions being somewhere below the roots. As a symbol in the modern day world, the tree could represent the cross that Jesus was crucified upon, adding to the Christian symbolism and questioning that is happening here. Not that the tree is dead? What implications does this have? Beckett, in creating a dead tree, and then a tree that is barely alive for Act Two, makes the Existential statement that Christianity is empty and dying, and in the aftermath of the horrors of World War Two, it is easy to see how this could be viewed. Goodness and holiness were no protection from death and pain during those years, and God was an empty promise. Did Jehovah or the Messiah come to the aide of the Jewish peoples?

Vladimir and Estragon rely on each other for counsel and support. In the absence of a supreme being, they have turned to each other for to take that role. Each finding the other less than perfect, their despair turns to anger before they realize that they are all each has.

VLADIMIR: I felt lonely.

ESTRAGON:...Who am I to tell my private nightmares to if I can't tell them to you?

(p. 11 A)

And what about that carrot?

ESTRAGON: Give me a carrot. ...It's a turnip!

VLADIMIR: Oh pardon! I could have sworn it was a carrot.

Can you imagine on Judgement Day, if we are disappointed by Heaven? Come to find out the Holy City, that carrot dangled before our noses, the object which create a Sisyphus within us all, only turns out to be a turnip?!?

In the play, Vladimir is the one who constantly and consistently remembers who they are waiting for. Estragon always wants to leave, or at least suggests it as an option, although he never does. Vladimir represents the clergy, constantly interpreting things as signs of God, giving weekly pep-rallies in order to bolster our lagging faith. Vladimir is the only one who sees the boy, which is a whole other barrel of moneys to untangle.

The boy represents the Angel or prophet, sent directly from Heaven to inform us on what to do and where to go. Vladimir, acting as the interpretive intermediary, is the only one who speaks to or acknowledges the boy presence. Somehow, he is the only one worthy enough to be gifted with these visitations. Estragon in fact feels threatened by the boy, because the boy represents the unknown, the fearful edges of the known world. Also, the boy is the only one in the play who actually has even SEEN Godot, much less spoken to him. He is just a messenger and errand boy, much as the angels are said to be, the only inhabitants of Heaven.

Enter Lucky and Pozzo. Lucky seems to have chosen this bondage and existence, as pseudo-slave to Pozzo. He does everything Pozzo asks, and feels no resentment towards him. Only when Estragon come nears him does he lash out. Estragon, as a "free" thinker, a person whose ideas are different than Lucky's, presents a threat to his entire world. Only when Lucky begins to think and comprehend his situation does he resent it, and in fact revolts. Commanding him to think, Pozzo places his hat on Lucky's head, Illuminating him and causing a virtual torrent of garbled information to come spewing forth. Once tackled and the hat (or Illumination) removed, he will no long carry Pozzo's bags or submit to his will. It takes a while for him to return to his former subservient self. Does Lucky represent the worst of mankind? He is threatened by new ideas, and once free of the mental bondage placed upon him by others, he will not submit any longer to such servitude. Could this be another aspect Existentialism, and one of the reasons why it was and is attacked so harshly by those it questions?

ESTRAGON: Do you think God sees me?

VLADIMIR: You must close your eyes.

(p. 49 B)

Existentially, there is a segment of thinkers that believe in the divinity of the self, and I believe Beckett, by this statement and others in other plays, feels that way as well. Godot will never show up. Estragon and Vladimir must find him for themselves, rather than letting him come to them. They must take action and make the world around them exist, a world with more than a dead or dying tree.

This is the Existential solution. To exist in a world devoid of reason, one must create that reason, else be doomed to endless years of waiting for enlightenment to come, which it never will, appearing only on the horizon of tomorrow's forever. Beckett is telling us to get up off our butts and exist. God isn't coming, and if you want to wait forever for him be our guest, but the rest of us are going to be human BE-ings.

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