Awakening Thoughtful Laughter in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett’s use of humor can be seen throughout his repertoire of work, ranging from the exaggeratedly tragic lives of the two characters in Rough for Theater I to the mechanical prodding that is required to rouse the characters in Act Without Words II. The humor in Beckett’s work is given dimension by the fact that it addresses morbid themes such as death, poverty, suffering, and the crushing despair and apathy that comes with the realization of the meaninglessness of life--the cornerstone of existentialism. Thus, the reader is amused by the works because, through humor, Beckett lightens the tenebrous view of life that is existentialism. Such a response to this sort of humor can be considered “thoughtful laughter” because while the reader considers the material to be funny, he is also made to ruminate over the broader and often darker implications of the work. Beckett’s humor can be seen most prominently in Waiting for Godot, and a character in whom this humor is most strongly manifested is Pozzo’s faithful subordinate, Lucky.
Lucky’s character and what he deal with represents the struggle that many face in their daily lives regarding their relationships with others. Lucky’s relationship with Pozzo is clearly one of submission and resignation, and through this relationship Beckett brings up the question of how and why we, as humans, allow ourselves to be controlled by others. Beckett’s use of humor in this situation is seen initially in his introduction of Lucky; when he enters the stage he is described as being “[driven] by means of a rope passed around his neck” by Pozzo. The absurdity in Beckett’s humor comes into play here in that Beckett makes what we often consider to be a figurative concept of being controlled by someone else literal. The idea that one person is capable of controlling another is made funny because the image is so ludicrous. The rope around Lucky’s neck and...
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