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Were still waiting for Godot, and shall continue to wait. When the scenery gets too drab
and the action too slow, well call each other names and swear to part for ever but
then, theres no place to go! San Quentin Prison Journal, November 1957
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is one of the most celebrated plays of the twentieth
century. Optimism, as the saying goes, is the nucleus of life. Sometimes a man has no choice but
hope in vain, and this is what the Waiting for Godot deals with. This is the horrible plight of the
post war generation that the play foregrounds. The play is a landmark in modern drama and has
been hailed as one of the greatest modern European classics of 20th Century. It is considered as a
milestone of modern British drama. The saddest play and yet the funniest declared the English
press for the simple reason that the theme of the play is serious but action is comic. In other
words, the play is tragicomedy in two Acts because it combines tragic and comic elements. The
time of the plot is the present and the locale is a country road with a solitary tree which is barren.
The principal characters are a couple of tramps called Vladimir and Estragon, Pozzo (an affluent
and tyrant master), Lucky Pozzos decrepit slave who is treated like a beast of burden, whom
Pozzo drives along by means of a rope tied round his neck, and last of a Boy, a messenger from
Godot. There is no female character in the play, which is the symbolic expression of the theme of
The major themes of Waiting for Godot are interminable waiting, ignorance, impotence,
pang of mean existence, suffering of being, uncertainty vain optimism, futility and sterility of
human life, purposelessness of human life, disintegration and so on.
The play is about two tramps waiting nowhere in particular for someone who never turns
up. This play shows two heroes whiling away the time in a succession of desultory and neverending games. The act of waiting that we find in this play is futile but unavoidable. Waiting is an
essential characteristic of the human condition. The tramps are waiting for Godot, as Vladimir
says, In this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come
(Beckett 51). Their waiting functions as an absurd parallel to our real lives, as we wait our whole
lives to be happy for something. Sometimes we wonder if waiting is a habit because waiting is
tied with hope, and there is no human existence without hope. Indeed in our lives we have
rational and practical hopes which may be fulfilled one day, but it proves like the tramps, who
seem to have irrational hopes waiting for the mysterious Godot to come and to be saved
(Beckett 60). But there is no any hope for his arrival. So the waiting represents a common
theme both in absurdity as well as in reality. Hence, it seems life is waiting, and all these
activities happen while we are waiting. Godot seems to be the only hope in the lives of the
tramps, who have no existence without the hope for Godot, therefore their future depends on that
hope because the tramps truly believe that Godot can rescue them from their hardship and
discomfort. Angela Hotaling has the same idea of the tramps hope on Godot, goes on to explain
it in such a way:
The characters Vladimir and Estragon anxiously wait for Godot to come. Their lives are
spent waiting. They think that when Godot finally comes, they will be fulfilled or
something. By, what? Godot will bring purpose and meaning to Estragon and Vladimirs
life, and nothing else seems to have the ability to do this (11-12).

The tramps hope to meet Godot continues their desire to fight for their lives as Vladimir says,
Lets wait and see what he (Godot) saysIm curious to hear what he has to offer (Beckett
The two tramps are in a place and mental state in which nothing happens and time stands
still. Their main preoccupation is to pass the time as well as they can until night comes and they
can go. They realise the futility of their exercises and that they are merely filling up the hours,
with pointless activity. In this sense, their waiting is mechanical; it is the same thing as not
moving. In another sense, it is an obligation. They have to remain where they are though they
resent doing so and would like to leave. This might be called a moral obligation, since it involves
the possibilities of punishment and reward. If Godot comes, a new factor may be introduced into
their existence whereas if they leave they will certainly miss him. Their waiting, therefore,
contains a certain element of hope, no matter how cynical they may be about it. If they terminate
their wait, where would they go? Do they have anywhere to go? The answer is monosyllabic
NO. They have no alternative but waiting. They have no option but to hope against hope. Thus
with this infamous refrain Lets go.We cant.Why not?Were waiting for
Godot.Ah., Samuel Beckett introduces the strange world of Waiting for Godot.
The tramps hope that Godot will be the saviour to bring comfort into their lives. Estragon
asks If he comes? Vladimir replies Well be saved (60). They decide to commit suicide and
then decide against the idea of suicide they select the act of waiting. The play starts with
Estragon statement Nothing to be done (7) and concludes with the idea that the tramps may
want to spend their time doing nothing. This becomes certain when Vladimir insists Im
beginning to come round to that opinion (7), and throughout the play they come back to the
same conclusion, Nothing to be done(7).
Angela Hotaling points out Not only is the waiting difficult, but figuring out what to do
while waiting is difficult (4). However Vladimirs lust for hope comes to light in his dialogues,
We wait. We are bored. No, dont protest, we are bored to death (Beckett 52). That is why they
choose to wait for Godot.
The play suggests that waiting is the only choice the tramps have if they want to
continue their lives. Similarly, the tramps are merely passively waiting. Esslin points out:
Waiting is to experience the action of time, which is constant change. And yet, as
nothing real ever happens, that change is in itself an illusion. The ceaseless activity of
time is self-defeating, purposeless, and therefore null and voids (52).
It seems to suggest that the circle of coming and going is the only choice to the tramps, and
hope and waiting are inevitable products of this circle.
It cannot be said that the two tramps are waiting for anything in particular. They even
have to remind each other of the very fact that they are waiting and of what they are waiting for.
Thus, actually they are not waiting for anything. But, exposed as they are to the daily
continuation of their existence, they cannot help concluding that they must be waiting, and
exposed to their continued waiting, they cannot help assuming that they are waiting for
something. It is meaningless to ask who or what the expected Godot is. Godot is nothing but the

name for the fact that life which goes on pointlessly as wrongly interpreted to mean as waiting
or as waiting for something. What appears to be a positive attitude of the two tramps amounts
to a double negation; their existence is pointless and they are incapable of recognising the
pointlessness of their existence. Beckett himself said that he was not so much concerned with
Godot as with Waiting.
In the play we are not told who Godot is and what the two characters really expect him to
do for them. They keep on waiting but for Godot, but Godot never comes to meet them. Godot
does not appear in the play, they make the uncertain assumption that there might be some hope in
their existence, which is why they do not give up waiting for him.
Estragon: And If he doesnt come?
Vladimir: Well come back to-morrow.
Estragon: And the day after to-morrow.
Vladimir: Possibly.
Estragon: And so on.
Vladimir: The point is.
Estragon: Until he comes (10).
The play therefore, shows how man is thrown back into solitude and non-action. The two tramps
waiting for Godot may be representing human beings whose waiting may thus be humanitys
vain hope of salvation or as others call it hopelessly hoping. The subject of the play is not
Godot but waiting, the act of waiting as an essential and characteristic aspect of the human
condition. Throughout our lives we always wait for something and Godot simply represents the
objective of our waiting an event, a thing, a person, death. Over the last sixty years critics have
suggested that Godot is happiness, eternal life, love, death, silence, hope, time, God and many
other things.
Beckett in this play expresses the Existentialist philosophy, according to which suffering
is an inseparable part of human condition. It remains unmitigated. Suffering in case of human
beings ends with death. In Existentialist view living is suffering. Existentialism portrays man as
thrown into this world as a diseased animal. It is opposed to all forms of utopian thinking. It
constantly underlines human finitude, and the misery and despair that dog human life form
cradle to the grave. Journey from womb to tomb is full of miseries. Delivery is no deliverance.
Beckett appropriately quotes Calderon who said that Mans greatest sin is to have been born.
The way the two tramps pass time is indication of boredom and triviality of human
activities, the lack of significance in life and the constant suffering which Pozzo philosophises on
the persistent cycle of suffering in the world. He says targeting Estragon and Lucky that the tears

of the world are a constant quantity: for each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another
The tramps seem to be frustrated after they have been manipulated for Fifty years may
be (35). Throughout the play, although Vladimir persuades Estragon not to give up hope on
Godot, Godots absence makes Vladimir frustrated, disappointed as well depressed when they do
not attain what they are waiting for, he goes on:
Or for night to fall. (Pause.) We have kept our appointment and thats an end to that. We
are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?
When their only hope fades away, they become hopeless and that may be the reason they came
up with the idea of hanging themselves.
Waiting for Godot is a play about the repetitious nature of existence and this central
theme is well focused by the fact that the ending of the two Acts f the play is almost identical.
Towards the end of both the Acts the two tramps propose to move and yet they dont and the
curtain in both cases falls with the stage directions: They dont move. There is a repetition of
certain incidents in the second act; arrival of Pozzo and Lucky, coming of the messenger Boy
towards the end to announce that Godot will not come that day. In both Acts, Estragon handles
food, plays with his boots, in both acts the two central figures contemplate suicide. All this
shows that there is a plenty of repetitions which suggests one of the thematic aspect of the play
that is to say, life is a mere series of meaningless repetitive activities. The non-action of futile
waiting by the two tramps is enacted twice in the play.
In the second Act we find the master (Pozzo) as blind and the slave (Lucky) as dumb.
Both stumble and fall. Vladimir decides that they should help Pozzo and Lucky get up. But
Estragon wants to consider an alternative plan. After all be was wounded by Lucky the day
before. Vladimir reminds Estragon however; that it is not everyday that we are needed. This is
one of the most profound comments of the drama. One needs to be needed. Feeling of being
needed is essential to realise our purpose of existence. It gives us the sense of wholeness.
In Waiting for Godot, Beckett made use of the universal theme of human condition, and
mans despair at being unable to find a meaning in existence (Esslin 45), when confronting
mens desire to understand the meaning of life. Generally, men try to find the meaning of life by
creating their own pattern based on their daily routine. If a man is not able to find his own
pattern, then he will get lost in the world of confusion making it very difficult to find his way,
while simultaneously fantasising about the meaningful life that he has been expecting. Waiting
for Godot is the story of two homeless men desperately seeking some meaning for their
existence, and constantly hoping to meet someone called Godot who might be able to help them
out of their current circumstances. In order to fulfil this hope, waiting is the pattern they create to
represent the meaning of their lives, because they strongly believe that their lives will be fulfilled
if they meet Godot. However, they would be hopelessly disappointed if they encounter a
negative aspect from Godot. The real despair underlying Waiting for Godot is the
meaninglessness of waiting, especially in the face of a Godot who may never come (Rovira 5).

Beckett believes that the first words should introduce the theme of the play. The opening
words in Godot Nothing to be done do precisely that. These words echo again and again during
the course of the play. Estragon sitting on a low mound tries his best to take off one of his boots
that hurts his leg very badly. Tired of his fruitless efforts at removing his boot he says, Nothing
to be done pointing to his utter helplessness with his boot. Vladimir and his fellow tramps, who
come there after his friend takes up the remark of Estragon in a larger context referring to the
utter helplessness and hopelessness of human life on earth. Nothing to be done is the key note of
the play which points out the absurdity of human existence without any direction or purpose.
This also epitomises the essence of the absurd drama which lays bare the absurdity, the ennui, the
boredom and the suffering of being.
Moreover, the play is based on the Myth of Sisyphus. The situation of Sisyphus, forever
rolling a boulder (a marble block) up a hill, forever aware that it never reaches the top is a perfect
metaphor for the play Waiting for Godot. The play is a metaphor of ones tragic awareness of
ones self, the self that is caught up in the endless process of decay and destruction.
To sum up, the play primarily deals with the theme of hoping against hope which is
unavoidable human condition. It gives a latent message to those who are torn between their
needs and desires: Blessed are those who do not hope, for they shall not be disappointed. A man
with moderate expectations rarely meets with disappointment. The play dwells upon the
absurdity of human existence that stems from the huge discrepancy between the needs and
desires of human beings, necessities and aspirations of the mortals.

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