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English Extension Essay Plan


Stanley Kubricks 1964 film Dr Strangelove and Samuel Becketts play Waiting for Godot, which premiered in 1953, are both examples of texts written during the cold war period and hence influenced by the climate in which they were written. After the Second World War, a climate of fear and disillusionment grew throughout the world, manifesting itself in texts of the time period. It was also a period of enlightenment which was led by literature and saw the challenging of many ideas brought about during WWII. Therefore via their examination of global anxieties such as existential, political and gender anxieties regarding the constant threat of world destruction by nuclear weaponry, both texts are able to transcend their context of the cold war period and retain an enduring significance though the humorous way they depict societys ills.


Waiting for Godot existential anxiety Context Becketts personal response to cold war era. Play setting, economic stage directions A country road. A tree. Evening. Lack of physical context mirroring the idea that existence itself may be void of meaning, or full of contradictions. The tree in Act Two does it represent life, death or nothing?


Waiting for Godot religious paradigm V & E lack religious context and therefore serve to question the value of religion in society. Beckett referencing religion Vladimir describes the story of the thieves in the Gospels at the beginning of the play, representing a doubt in religion by saying, But only one speaks of the thief being saved.

Luckys sermon-like monologue in Act One shows the disillusionment in religious doctrine.


Dr Strangelove political paradigm. A satirical black comedy through which director Stanley Kubrick directly responds to the political anxieties of his time. Plot outline. Film exposes nationalistic political climate in which one mad general can bring about the end of the world. Characterisation of the main characters crazy General Ripper, bumbling President, the nervous and inexperienced Captain mandrake each representing societys fears of an incapable government. President Richard Nixon and his finger hovering over the red button is an example of the fear of having incompetent rulers.


Waiting for Godot political paradigm. The two protagonists are waiting without explanation for a higher being to come and direct them. This was much the case after the war. Feelings of the public disillusioned after the horror, as well as abandoned and lost. Vladimir announced near the end of the play, What are we doing here, that is the question one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come. V & E are members of the lower class or unintellectual, Godot is their saviour. Political relationships reviewed between Lucky and Pozzo Lucky first enteres the stage with a rope around his throat, on a leash like a dog. Dehumanisation reflects leaders decisions at the time to make others suffer dehumanising treatment such as McCarthy era. Luckys introduction also shows the audience that they are supposed to oppose this treatment of the fellow human, thus reflecting political values at the time although the people needed a leader, they were

disillusioned as to their righteousness because of the choices they made during the war.


Dr Strangelove gender anxieties, social paradigm. Womens gender anxieties provoked because they had been instrumental in male professions during the war and were made to go back to their positions as of before the war, as housewives. This provoked womens lib movement. Dr Strangelove satirises this movement through portrayal of women only woman in entire film is Miss Scott, General Turgidsons secretary, who wears nothing but a bikini and heels during her scene. She is a mere plaything of Turgidson, with no professional value. Male gender anxieties emasculation of men during the post-war period through constant sexual symbolism. War depicted as a male activity inextricably linked with sexual acts. Major Kong straddling a phallic-like hydrogen bomb as he plunges down to his death. Sexualisation of war represents a crisis in gender and emasculation of men after returning from their exploits in WWII.


Through their depiction of existential, religious, political and gender anxieties during the post-war period, Kubricks Dr Strangelove and Becketts Waiting for Godot reveal through their texts the ways of thinking in that time. Not only this, but the portrayal of universal values and worries in satirical and absurdist manners respectively has allowed for both texts to transcend their context of the cold war period, a time of crisis for the worlds population, and retain a significance which endures to this day.