‘We’re waiting for Godot.’
This review is pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing, because I never intended to write a review for this one, since I read it for the first time last year and just reread it for my Contemporary British Literature class and I simply thought I wouldn’t have anything to say about it. But after this reread, I feel like I actually do have something to say.
I can’t write a synopsis of this book (because, need I say, NOTHING HAPPENS in this play) so I’ll just try to make sense of what seemingly has no sense.
Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for a… person? being? named Godot for a reason not really specified, and we see what happens while they wait for this being. It is how they try to pass the time that really is the meat of the story (what little of it there is) and it reveals our complexity as human beings. We want to give life meaning, even if there is seemingly nothing.
Vladimir and Estragon are seemingly homeless, waiting for Godot, and their constant bantering back and forth and just general conversation about seemingly frivolous things brings forth our own complexities as humans: we give our own lives meaning, but without the ability to do so, what are our lives reduced to? What happens when there seemingly is no meaning? We are merely reduced to our basest selves and most basic desires. In this state life is the waiting game Vladimir and Estragon play throughout the entire work, and it is one that life is in the most basic sense. We cannot function in a complex manner when our lives are devoid of all meaning.
Vladimir and Estragon’s lives hang on the one purpose to wait for Godot, and nothing else. As they banter throughout this meaningless (yet somehow meaningful) play they cling to that one purpose, and it keeps them going but, even in that going forward, the dark matter of death is dealt with in a callous manner, which means that they only see their purpose as waiting.
It is this long wait in which they search for meaning, only to find none. This is especially prevalent in the slave owner Pozzo and his servant Lucky. After Pozzo commands him to think, Lucky starts out by reciting what we think will be a meaningful soliloquy that ultimately dissolves into meaningless gibberish that makes zero sense. It leads back only to the enigma of life that Beckett is shining a light on in this play. Existentialism says that humans themselves give their own lives meaning and when they are deprived the means to do so, no meaning will arise at all. Beckett, by showing nothing, brings forth one of the greatest mysteries of human life: where does meaning fit into life, if at all, and is the search for it ultimately in vain? If the answer is no, as the play purports, then ultimately if we embrace that, living will no longer be necessary for us as complex beings, so we become like Vladimir and Estragon.
Is life devoid of meaning really worthless, or is the search for it human life itself? And, if the latter, is that actually worth something if we end up finding no meaning?
We may not find meaning in our lives, but it is not always about the destination, but the journey. That is why the search for meaning is important, even if it may not always lead to anything with gravity. It gives us what Vladimir and Estragon are hanging on to in this play: purpose, and sometimes the journey itself is our purpose. Life is an enigma, and we as humans find importance and joy in trying to make sense when there is none, being complex humans.
These are the questions I mulled over in reading this play a second time. I can’t say I’m right in doing this (as I said, this play is highly enigmatic and open to many interpretations) but this is what I took away from this (at least on the surface) boring book “in which nothing happens. Twice.”
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