I insisted to have my second read for Waiting for Godot linked with the first read for The Myth of Sisyphus. As Camus and Beckett both wrote under the genre of absurdity, and that the play -in my opinion- is the staged version of Camus’s book where his philosophical interpretations are embodying on the image of Vladimir and Estragon.
Whether you have decided to consider Godot as a tacit expression of God (which Camus did not recommend, neither do I) or to take it as generally as possible by including all the possible meanings of the word per se, based on the events of the play. One thing we should all agree upon; is that Godot is an idea. An idea in the minds of everyone, which varies from one person to another. Some of them will see Godot as god, and some of them will see it as the absurd, or the meaning of life, or love. And here lies the beauty of this wonderful masterpiece, its infinite interpretations and that it can’t set on one interpretation.
One must feel the weight of nothingness and pointlessness in the play. And it is enough to fill your head with two questions; you’ll either ask yourself: what is this story about? OR, does the human condition have meaning? The answer of the first question requires you to read the play one more time to get the full image, but the answer of the second question is complex, and I am in the process of linking events with Camus’s interpretations. The play depicting the first type of suicide Camus has mentioned, the physical suicide, resulting from the absurdity. On the way to this suicide, Beckett reviews a set of proposed solutions to deceive committing suicide and is very close to the solutions Camus mentioned in The Myth of Sisyphus.
The folly of seeking a meaning, aimlessness of life and absurdity of existence are the three main themes in Waiting for Godot. When The Myth of Sisyphus unlearn the issue of how we should confront the absurdity, Waiting for Godot actually applied it; Camus suggested some possible ways to respond to the absurdity:
While Camus mentioned two ways of committing suicide (physical and philosophical suicide), Waiting for Godot concentrated only on the physical suicide; Didi and Gogo talked about killing themselves at the beginning of ACT I before they had entered the whirlpool of absurdity and they talked about it again but this time in a CERTAIN way as they discovered the pointlessness of waiting for Godot, yet they gave him benefit of the doubt before they hang themselves:
ESTRAGON. What about hanging ourselves?
VLADIMIR. Hmm. It’d give us an erection.
ESTRAGON. An erection!
VLADIMIR. With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?
ESTRAGON. Let’s hang ourselves immediately!
ESTRAGON. Why don’t we hang ourselves?
VLADIMIR. We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow. Unless Godot comes.
ESTRAGON. And if he comes?
VLADIMIR. We’ll be saved.
Drama (becoming an actor)
Camus claims that you can face absurdity by becoming an actor and trying to live other people’s life and try to find the meaning in their stories. Beckett on the other hand, unlearn this thing by making Didi and Gogo act, also by actually acting this play on the stage, so the actors themselves can examine this way of confronting.
VLADIMIR. Will you not play?
ESTRAGON. Play at what?
VLADIMIR. We could play at Pozzo and Lucky.
ESTRAGON. Never heard of it.
VLADIMIR. I’ll do Lucky, you do Pozzo
Another kind of art
This includes all kinds of art, but Camus suggested becoming a painter, this way will give you the chance to create art works to be a substituted of living this life. Singing is a kind of art and we’ll see Didi singing in the opining of ACT II:
Halts suddenly and begins to sing loudly.
A dog came in–
Having begun too high he stops, clears his throat, resumes:
A dog came in the kitchen And stole a crust of bread. Then cook up with a ladle And beat him till he was dead.
I can’t deny thinking in the following way while reading it for the first time. I adapted the idea says that Godot is god. In the play the place is an area that its name not mentioned, there is nothing in it but a leafless tree. Didi and Gogo come every day in an endless waiting for Godot (this doing is the rock that Sisyphus doomed to carry endlessly). This is similar to the idea of gathering before the Day of Resurrection in Islam, where all the people of the world are together in waiting to be told of their doings of “goodness and sins” in their life and are also waiting to see God, but he does not appear, and this situation will continue for years and years before he finally appears.
In the gathering day, no one recognizes the other, so you’ll see that Pozzo forget meeting Didi and Gogo, and the Boy also had forgotten that he met him, or if it was his brother who came in yesterday. The Boy also identify himself as the messenger for Mr. Godot, which made me think that he is a prophet; what is a prophet, but a messenger for god! Yet this “prophet” is a shepherd which rhymes well with what Prophet Mohammad was doing before he became a messenger. But in my second reading I was more concerned with Didi and Gogo strong bond of friendship, the implied political figure of Pozzo and most importantly, Lucky. Who in my opinion represents the “Acceptance” Camues talked about.
Didi and Gogo friendship
ESTRAGON. It’s not nice of you, Didi. Who am I to tell my private nightmares to if I can’t tell them to you?
What a line. This particular line shows the tight bond between them, and how transparent their friendship is. What kind of friends are we if we can’t discuss the smallest and largest, most ridiculous and deepest thoughts yet our fears to our closest friend? Not just that, Gogo also showed fear for his friend to be left alone if Gogo hanged himself first and succeeded, but Didi didn’t because the bough couldn’t bear his weight. But if Gogo went before Didi and the bough didn’t break, it means that it’s strong enough to hold Didi then it should be strong enough to hold Gogo too, because he’s the lighter one. In this way he’ll never let him alone and they’ll die together and be together:
ESTRAGON. Gogo light—bough not break—Gogo dead. Didi heavy—bough break—Didi alone.
Gogo and Didi point out the idea of embracing each other in many parts of the play. Remarkably, they haven’t said “huge me” not once, they have always said “embrace me”. Embracing and hugging are two different thing; when we hug, we are engaging in the physical act. But when we embrace on the other hand, we are not only hugging, we are embracing each other’s flows, sins, scars and goodness. How much are we in need to be embraced by someone, anyone?
Pozzo the master
Pozzo and his ‘menial’, Lucky. The power that Pozzo had on Lucky made him somehow finds a meaning for his life. Maybe Pozzo and Lucky were a metaphor for the political situation in the World War II. He also emphasized the repressive thinking of that era:
Pozzo. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either. (Pause.) Let us not speak of it at all.
Lucky and the tree
When Didi and Gogo never seem to accept that Godot will never come and shift their concentration for something else. Lucky, however, was the only one that applied Camus’s accepting the absurd method. He’s carrying the burdens of humans that they can’t put down (lucky’s baggage full of sand) and when offered comfort he WILLINGLY went back to that burden and pick it up. He knows that his life is pointless and all this is a sheer absurd but he lives it anyway. He is the happy Sisyphus.
The tree represents the lack of vitality. In the second ACT, Didi finds that four or five leafs have grown on the leafless tree. The tree seems that it started to accept the absurdity in which it’s planted in, when it finally accepted that, leafs started to grow on its boughs.
Waiting for Godot represents the sheer absurdity of this meaningless life, it discusses more than what I mentioned, and in every read you’ll discover something new, and look at it and to the absurdity itself differently. Make your reading for this book linked with The Myth of Sisyphus.
ESTRAGON. Nothing to be done.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
* I don’t have a copy of the book.