Lucky's Monologue in Waiting for Godot

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Quinci Cohen
30th April 30, 2010
HL English E

A Commentary on Lucky’s Monologue in Waiting for Godot

In Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot perhaps no character is as enigmatic and perplexing as that of Lucky. His role in the narrative of the drama as he is introduced is by and large passé until he is asked to “think” by Vladimir. The ensuing logorrhea when Lucky dons his hat has spawned innumerable interpretations and attempts to decipher the crux of it. Most agree that Lucky’s speech is not simply meaningless prolixity and can be split into 3 distinct sections or beats (of which the first 2 are examined here). Upon closer inspection of these sections, one can derive Lucky’s message. Throughout the course of his speech Lucky makes a startling commentary on the nature of God, the cessation of man, and makes use of several crude and obscure puns; further emphasizing the degeneration of our species.

As the speech begins, its focus is immediately clear. “Given the existence… of a personal God… with white beard…” He paints a portrait of an archetypal Christian God, one who is wise, magnanimous, and “personal.” He goes on to polarize that image with an ecclesiastical construct that is largely opposite and is characterized as being “outside time without extension…” Even if there is a God he is unable to affect us and even if he can his care and love is subject to “some exceptions” These exceptions become sufferers who are “plunged in torment [and] fire…” This fire is supposedly so strong that it will “blast hell to heaven…” The implications of these lines further the conflicting effects of a God. Those who are exceptions from his care experience life on earth as hell and this sensation is so strong that it eventually overrides any mote of hope or belief in a paradise beyond their earthly sufferings. Lucky’s cynical feelings are innately clear. God is an absent projection entrenched in paradox and if not then he is defined by “divine apathia” or apathy, a lack of interest, “divine aphasia” the inability to understand or express speech, and “divine athambia” the meaning of which is subject to debate but can be understood, according to the Oxford English Dictionary as “imperturbability”. He is unfeeling, unseeing, and inattentive.

Similarly, Lucky’s thoughts and opinions are no less cynical or judgmental when considering the human race. Although fragmented by parodies of professors and philosophers the meat of this beat of the speech can be glimpsed in the spaces in between. “and considering… that… it is established beyond all doubt… that man in Essy… wastes and pines…” Lucky establishes that man is on the decline. His use of the phrase “wastes and pines” suggests not only a physical atrophy but a mental one as well. This notion is reinforced by specific examples, “in spite of… the practice of sports… penicilline and succedanea…” Despite our best efforts at advancing ourselves physically and mentally we are “concurrently [and] simultaneously… fad[ing] away” Lucky rounds off the beat by making reference to the fact that this “dead loss” of ourselves is a process that begun with “the death of Bishop Berkeley”, a reference to Irish philosopher George Berkeley who pioneered the ideology that the reality is ultimately comprised of nothing more than our cognitive perceptions of it. What Lucky implies with this reference is that since the death of Berkeley, we have become ensconced in the idea of some objective law imposed upon us by God and that this is the cause of our degeneration.

However, contrary to somber message of the passage Lucky’s tirade is not without the signature jest and humor we expect from the theatre of the absurd. In fact, the use of puns is liberal; nearly every mention he makes of supposed scholars is a veiled witticism. The “Puncher and Wattman” mentioned bears a slight resemblance to the actual scholars, the Scottish inventor James Watt and the French mathematician Louis Poinsot but in fact is more...
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