Waiting For Godot

Topics: Waiting for Godot, Existentialism, Theatre of the Absurd Pages: 5 (1569 words) Published: November 11, 2001
Waiting for Godot Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is a mid 20th century play belonging to the genre of the "Theatre of the Absurd", and focusing on the senselessness of the human condition. The idea of the absurd is a major theme in Waiting for Godot and is embodied in its main characters. Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir (Didi), taken together, represent the universal man facing the world. Beckett uses each character to show the limitations and absurdity of different aspects of human existence. The pair of Vladimir and Estragon exemplifies, in the metaphysical level, the dichotomy of man's nature in body and mind, and illustrates the limitations and senselessness of these parts of human nature.

In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon represent the mind/body duality of the human being, a fundamental principle in Western philosophy. Beckett's intention is to demonstrate through these characters the limitations of the mind and body, taken separately or together, which prevent us from coping with our finite being. In Waiting for Godot Vladimir represents the mind, while Estragon symbolizes the body. "The pair of Vladimir and Estragon represent a sort of Everyman, by embodying complementary aspects of human nature: Vladimir the intellectual side of man, Estragon the corporeal" (Webb, 27). Throughout the story Beckett presented Vladimir as the intellectual who is concerned with various philosophical and theological problems, while Estargon is more concerned with bodily pleasures and materialistic gains. However these two tramps seem to be imperfect individuals or an imperfect pair in contrast to the Western idea of human existence, which views man as able to achieve perfection through the cooperation of the two aspects of human nature.

Beckett used different symbols to reinforce the sense of the mind/body duality in the Vladimir-Estragon pair. "Their names suggest their personalities "Vladimir", for example, means "ruler of the world", a name that suggests the aspiration of intellect to master the universe by reducing it to knowledge, while Estragon, the French word for the herb, tarragon, is a fitting name for a character so earthbound and with such persistent physical appetites" (Webb, 27). The mind/body dichotomy, as it appears in the play, reveals Vladimir as the intellectual who thinks primarily in terms of the past and the future, while Estargon is more concerned with bodily pleasures which link him to the present. In the beginning of Act I Vladimir reflects upon the theological problem of the thieves on the cross and manages to present a valid argument. Estragon, on the other hand, failing to grasp the importance of the problem refuses to think and dismisses the issue by stating: "People are bloody ignorant apes" (Beckett, 7). Estragon's answer is highly ironic since it condemns the behavior of people like him. When Vladimir is wrestling with the discrepancies among the four evangelists on the subject of the two thieves, Estragon is only able to recollect the colors and illustrations of the Gospels. Gogo is a "lover of sight" able to know truth as he sees it and attached to the sensible world surrounding him, while Didi is a "lover of wisdom" relating to the intellectual world or the world of the Forms. Moral issues do not interest Estragon, who seeks materialistic gains. Throughout the play he desires food and money: he wants Pozzo's bones, he thinks he may get money if he waits for him, he hopes to get more bones for picking Pozzo up etc. Estragon's unconcern towards the discussions and problems of the others is also illustrated by his habit to fall asleep in the middle of a debate.

Vladimir and Estragon's focus on the divine (intellectual) and the earthly, respectively, can also be seen in a variety of characteristics which they posses. "With some consistency, Didi of Act I speaks as mind, and Gogo as body. Thus, Gogo eats, sleeps, and fears beating while onstage, whereas Didi ponders spiritual salvation....
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