“Waiting for Godot” is a cryptic two-act play set on a minimalist stage of “a country road, a tree, evening.” On this bare stage, two characters, Vladamir and Estragon, wait in vain for Godot— a man we know nothing about— to come and give meaning to their lives. Godot never appears. To pass time, these two tramps talk sheer nonsense, fuss and fret, play silly games, repeat and contradict themselves in endless circles, and even contemplate committing suicide to escape the terrible weight of boredom. Distraction for these two comes in the form of two other characters, Pozzo and Lucky. Pozzo, a flamboyant master, is leading Lucky, his old servant, in a harness/rope noose to a slave auction. For sometime, this master-slave pair entertains the tramps with this and that, and then leaves the stage. Vladamir and Estragon are once again left to their boredom. At the end of the first act, a boy approaches them with a message from the mysterious Godot, who says he will not come tonight, but will come tomorrow. Act two continues in the same pattern, except this time, Pozzo is blind and Lucky, dumb. At the end of act two, the boy reappears again to report that Godot will not come tonight but will come tomorrow. Both times, Vladamir and Estragon propose moving on, but stay in the same place and continue to wait for Godot.
First written in 1948-49 — right after the end of German occupation of France — “Waiting for Godot” is often interpreted as Beckett’s own experiences as an active participant of the French Resistance. The Resistance, an underground movement that opposed the Nazi occupation of France, was fraught with fear; their existence was an interminable wait for either the Nazis to discover them or the Allies to free them. This could have contributed to the writing of this play.
The dialogues in “Waiting for Godot” are short, rapid, often disconnected, incoherent, and repetitive. Beckett’s technique of repetition serves to build a sense of purposelessness and disorientation, and thus, the structure of the play becomes rather circular or cyclic in nature, and also difficult to make sense of.
I must admit that I did not get this piece. I found it difficult to finish, and at the end, was left simply bewildered. Who is Godot? God? Salvation? Is it a metaphor for the meaninglessness of life? What is the play about?? I suppose it could, like a piece of abstract painting, be interpreted in a variety of ways; it could mean anything, but at the same time, it could also be just pretentious nonsense. I want to take the latter view because I simply did not enjoy this book.
Book Reviewed by Manjushree Hegde
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