Waiting for Godot has been a subject of my thoughts for about two weeks now. While considering the work, its author, and the comments I have found about the play, I have come up with three hypotheses as to the meaning and overall theme. Either it is about Humanity waiting for a savior that does exist to return; or it could be about the hopelessness of Humanity waiting for a savior that doesn’t exist, and therefore will never come; or, the easiest of possibilities, that Waiting really has no theme at all. This last theory is the one that I most readily accept, and the answer that Samuel Beckett, the author of the play, put forth when questioned about the meaning of his strange little piece.Order now
Many critics put the first theory forth as the true meaning of Waiting, and there are many aspects of it by which they can make their point. The most obvious is the title character, Godot, because the root word of the name is God. The many references to Christianity also create a close connection between the storyline and many important stories from the Bible. From the very beginning Vladimir and Estragon ponder their salvation, consider death, and draw a parallel between themselves and the two thieves that were crucified along with Jesus, according to the Gospels.
Vladimir: …One of the thieves was saved. It’s a reasonable percentage. Gogo.
Vladimir: Suppose we repented.
Estragon: Repented what?
Vladimir: Oh…we wouldn’t have to go into the details.
Estragon: Our being born?
The general attitude expressed throughout is the hopelessness, or possibly the meaningless-ness of life. Humanity’s purpose is simply to wait out its existence until the Second Coming. Everything we do, say, feel, experience, etc., is just passing the time until our lives come to an end.
Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.
Let us assume that Godot does symbolize God. He is someone who will come to make a great change in the Vladimir and Estragon’s lives, a great change for the better. But Godot, and whatever that change may be, does not come throughout the length of the play. They mistake Pozzo for Godot, and they mistake the messenger for Godot, because they do not know what Godot looks like or what manner of person he may be. Likewise, through our lives we mistake people and occurrences for Christ. And that helps us to pass the time until we die.
The fact that Godot never comes also helps to prove the second theory about the meaning of Waiting. What if God and the afterlife do not exist? What then? We spend our entire lives waiting, biding our time in anticipation of our great reward. But when our lives end, that’s it. All the preparation, all our good intentions, are useless and meaningless because there was no meaning in the first place. Beckett may have used the play to illustrate how pathetic Humanity seems as it strives toward a nonexistent goal.
He also made great fun of all those philosophers that ponder on the meaning of our existence using the character of Lucky. When Lucky makes his lengthy oration of nonsense, it is illustrating what nonsense everything that all the great thinkers have said on the meaning of life. For if life has no meaning, then it is all gibberish, and Lucky makes just as much sense as Voltaire.
The third and final theory about the meaning of Waiting for Godot is that it has no meaning. When questioned repeatedly on the matter, Beckett was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I know no more of this play than anyone who manages to read it attentively,” and, ”I do not know who Godot is. I do not even know if he exists.”