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Silvija Skinderskyte

Irish Literature

Life, Language and God Absurdity Conventions in Samuel Becketts Waiting for
Godot

Samuel Becketts play Waiting for Godot introduces the audience with
absurdity theater concepts by providing a story in which two characters from
poor social backgrouds Vladimir and Estragon are ad infinitum waiting for an
unknown identity person called Godot. In the play Beckett generates the main
ideas, relevant for both existencialists and absurdtist, that involve presenting
mentally disbalanced man who has lost his inner harmony and peace in life; a
man who has lost his faith, feels exiled into the meaningless universe. In this
paper I am going to argue that Samuel Becketts absurdity play Waiting for
Godot is concerned with the absurdity of life and God and I will attempt to
show that in absurd life conditions language may become inadequate.
To begin with, Samuel Becketts play Waiting for Godot is associated with
the genre of absurd for several reasons. Firstly, the play omits traditional
components of the classical theater structure, such as cohesive plot, realistic
depiction of the sceniography and cohesive character features presented by
the actors. As Allan Scott puts it out : For many of us, though, it is a play like
no other, which transcends the boundaries of its genre. Its unique combination
of bleak and haunting desperation, surreal encounter and impish, wayward

humour in the face of a pointless universe confirms its place as one of the
masterpieces of twentieth century theatre, indeed, perhaps of theatre of any
era. (Scott 2013:448). This may lead to the main idea that the structure of the
play corresponds to human life which is full of absurdities and meaningless
events repetition. For instance, the first act of the play compares to the second
and vice-versa then at the end of the second act a boy shows up and presents
that Godot will not arrive similarly as in the first act of the play.

Moreover, the main theme of the play is namely presented in the title Waiting
for Godot that is the act of eternal waiting. For example, the main characters
of the play the tramps Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot who still does not
appear. This act of waiting reflects the idea of absurdity in life even though the
figure of Godot may embody hope for all of the characters. In Rubin
Rabinovitzs point of view the concept of hope presented in Waiting for Godot
is a dangerous cycle: Hope, for Beckett, leads into vicious cycle: after
dissapointment we seek relief in revived hope that ends up in renewed
dissapointment. Hope, in Becketts pessimistic view, is like an addictive drug
that intesifies suffering instead of alleviating it. (Rabinovitz.1995:214).
Similarly, Vladimir, the protagonist of the play, says he feels appalled when
experiencing the onset of hope (Rabinovitz 1995:214). Therefore, Beckett
decides not to romanticise either hope, either human situation (Rabinovitz
1995:214) in contratst to other authors who follow literary traditions of
romanticism.

However, looking from religious point of view, it is possible to state that the act
of waiting can also be reffered to humanities expectation to meet the lifesaviour and ,as regards the Bible, it is believed that the saviour will liberate the
people from meaningless existence, namely absurdity. Robert E. Lauder in his
article Accept the Absurd justifies the preceeding idea by saying: At the end
of the first act Estragon says, Well, shall we go? to which Vladimir responds,
Yes, lets go. They do not move. Then at the end of the second act Vladimir
says, Well? Shall we go? and Estragon answers, Yes, lets go. Again they do
not move. They cannot move because without God, there is no direction or goal
to the human journey. (Lauder 2009: 35). Furthermore, the name Godot
refers to the English word God and by some speculations it is possible to
interpret that Godot signifies the symbol of God. In addition to this, the
director of Broadway theater Anthony Page remarks about the name of Godot
pronunciation: Well GOD-dough is what Samuel Beckett said. Thats the right
pronunciation. Go-DOUGH is an Americanism, which isnt what the play
intended. (New York Times Article). On the other hand, literary critic and
author Rubin Rabinovitz believes that: Some of the sharpness in Becketts
later works is directed not only against religious moralizing but against a belief
in God.( Rabinovitz 1995:213). Thus, Godot does not appear throughout the
play so it may signify that there is no belief in God.

In the following paragraph I am going to discuss language inadequacy


conventions presented in Becketts play Waiting for Godot. As regards from
the script and the language of the play, it is possible to state that the
characters of the play encounter specific language inadequacy issues due to

the absurd human conditions, such as eternal waiting and meaningless


existence. This means that words are not fully adequate to express any idea or
emotional state, instead it is possible to notice the use of silence, repetition,
monologue techniques in the play. For instance, Joy Salvatore in his essay
Foucaults Discursive Theory in Waiting for Godot observes that The concept
of language as confining or restricting is also seen in Act II, when Vladimir and
Estragon appear
to find themselves linguistically incapable of breaking from a ritualized
poetic/lyrical structure
and, as a result, become confined to its limitations of style and
communication. (Salvatore 2004: 41). The following quotation reflects the
lyrical discourse and the significant of language by using silence techniques
and illustrating the continious brainstorming of Vladimir and Estragon:
Vladimir: Youre right, were inexhaustible.
Estragon: Its so we wont think.
Vladimir: We have that excuse.
Estragon: Its so we wont hear.
Vladimir: We have our reasons.
Estragon: All the dead voices.
Vladimir: They make a noise like wings.
Estragon: Like leaves.
Vladimir: Like sand.
Estragon: Like leaves.
Silence.
Vladimir: Rather they whisper.

Estragon: They rustle.


Vladimir: They murmur.
Estragon: They rustle.
Silence.
Vladimir: What do they say?
Estragon: They talk about their lives.
Vladimir: To have lived is not enough for them.
Estragon: They have to talk about it.
Vladimir: To have died is not enough for them.
Estragon: It is not sufficient.
Silence. (Beckett 2002: 68-9)

In addition, another literary critic Sue-Lien Liao remarks that silence proves
language disintegration: Silence plays a very important role in the works of
Beckett. We may say that in Becketts plays, silence speaks louder than any
other verbal expressions. The recurring silence separates dialogues, isolates
the words of the characters, and isolates the characters from one another.
Silences are Becketts most powerful weapon to attack language; they show
the ineffectiveness of language, the disintegration of thoughts and speech,
thoughts and actions. (Liao 2014: 407). Moreover, Sue-Lien Liao remarks that
the monologue technique helps to convey the message for the audience by
analyzing Vladimirs monologue: Sometimes the monologue of a certain
character reveals the idea the author wants to communicate. For example,
Vladimir questions his own awareness, Was I sleeping while the other
suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I
say of today? Vladimir wonders about the nature of his experience. Beckett

questions the nature of modern peoples experience through the monologue of


Vladimir. (Liao 2014: 407). Thus, monologues and the usage of silence may
help to interpret the message; otherwise the absence of language relevant in
absurd theater may leave the gaps for everyone to interpret individually and
subjectively. In short, Beckett uses the language that is an instrument of
expressiveness though not completely adequate.

All things considered, I have put forward a linguistically and based on literary
criticism driven interpretation of Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot that
explored the conventions of the absurd theater namely meaningless existence
and the act of waiting, Godots relevance to the notion of God and I have came
up with the idea that language may not be absolutely sufficient.

Reference list

Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. New York: Grove Press, 1954.
Lauder, Robert E. Accept the Absurd. America Press Inc. 2009.
Liao, Siu-Lien. Links and Blocks: The Role of Language in Samuel Becketts
Selected Plays. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology.
International Journal of Social, Management, Economics and Business
Engineering Vol:8 No:2, 2014.

Pliepenburg, Erik.Anthony Page of Waiting for Godot Teaches Us How to


Pronounce Its Title. New York Times Article, 2009. (accessable at:
http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/anthony-page-of-waiting-forgodot-teaches-us-how-to-pronounce-its-title/?
_php=true&_type=blogs&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B
%222%22%3A%22RI%3A13%22%7D&_r=0 ) (last access date: 2014.09.14)
Rabinovitz, Rubin. Samuel Becketts Revised Aphorisms. Board of Regents of
the University of Wisconsin System, 1995.
Salvatore, Joy. Foucaults Discursive Theory in Waiting for Godot. Young
Scholars in Writing: Undergraduate research in Writing and Rhetoric Volume 2,
Fall 2004.
Scott, Alan. A Desperate Comedy: Hope and Alienation in Samuel Becketts
Waiting
for Godot. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 2013.