Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is a comprehensive study in existentialism. The play in its own right contains many existentialist themes and concepts which are relayed to the audience through the actions and thoughts of the main characters. The main existentialist theme which Beckett deals with is that death is the only eventual possibility. He uses the almost religious action of waiting and turns it on its head. He does this by reducing the action to a fruitless exercise. Vladimir and Estragon are in fact waiting for nothing. I think that Beckett strongly questions the notion of religion in “Waiting for Godot”. He uses certain religious symbols such as the tree, which is one of the very few props visible on the stage.
The tree is very religious. It is believed that the tree represents life and death in a cyclical fashion. Also waiting is a central part of the play. Waiting can be interpreted as a religious activity. Waiting can be directly linked to faith. Many people of the catholic faith believe that they are on this earth waiting to go to heaven i.e. the afterlife. I think that Beckett hits out at this notion. He does this by showing that nothing happens at the end of Vladimir and Estragon’s waiting. The title, waiting for Godot, is very clever. It can be, and has been read as waiting for god. It would appear, on first glance that Vladimir and Estragon are indeed waiting for god, or a godlike figure.
“But that is not the question. Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come.”
We are never made aware as to whom Godot actually is. Is his character cloaked in mystery or, does Godot simply not exist? We the audience, along with the central characters, have never seen Godot. We are to simply to believe in this mysterious figure. I think that Beckett plays on the concept of faith excellently here. He demands faith from everybody and in the last scene he destroys this faith. He strongly communicates his message, there is no afterlife and we are merely waiting on this earth for one thing only, death. Beckett, as an existentialist writer, is very aware of his mortality and this echoes through out his works, especially waiting for Godot. The title can also be read as waiting for nothing, as the elusive Godot does not make an appearance.
Beckett, as an existentialist writer, is not overly religious. It would be a mistake in opinion to relate his writing to religion. I feel that Beckett is criticising people’s blind faith. Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for nothing in the play. I feel that Beckett is trying to convey this message in his drama. He is ambiguous in his writing. I think he does this to be more accessible so he can spread his core existentialist concepts. He inserts false religious symbols and metaphors in waiting for Godot and once he has baited the religious readers he bombards them with existentialist concepts. This in my opinion is a de-conversion of religion as he tries to strip the reader’s faith away. Beckett sees God to be a joke just as Godot is a joke. The waiting is nothing more than the delayed inevitability that they are waiting for nothing, but their own inevitable death. Godot is nothing, and thus god is nothing. This ties in with the existentialist view that death is the only inevitable outcome in life.
“Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!”
Beckett writing exists freshly in the wake of the world war. Morality is a key concept in Waiting for Godot. In life, morality is passed down from god. Beckett questions morality. Can morality exist without god? It is clear war and its destructive capability caused many people to question their morality. The losing of Pozzo’s watch is a very significant scene to the play. We see how one character, Pozzo, is bound to the constraints and rules of time. Time itself can be seen as a great symbol and a metaphor for death. Beckett refers to time through the character of Pozzo. He shows the audience how they are mortal and that everyone’s days are numbered. Pozzo’s fear of time may be linked to the existentialist themes of this play. Pozzo is well aware of his mortality. The watch marks his ageing and with each tic he is moving closer to his death. He is bound to this and it is a faith he cannot escape. The watch is a constant reminder of this. When the watch is lost Pozzo is free from all anxieties. He no longer is bound to time or no longer recognises his own mortality, even though it still exists and is ever present. When the watch is lost time becomes redundant. Time becomes nothing, just as Godot is nothing. This is another test of faith, laid down by Beckett, in my opinion. It is an experiment to see if something which is not present can still exist. Through the on stage characters, he shows us that this is not entirely possible. Time is banished from the physical world of which they inhabit. But also I feel that the banishment of time is an important symbol. Beckett shows us that it is possible to remove a belief system, even one as controlling as time. We see that even time is just another concept thought up by somebody else.
Finally I do feel that Godot has some physical presence in the play. In my opinion, Godot is the tree. The tree is the central prop in the play. But I would argue that Godot is the central prop. I feel that Vladimir and Estragon were not waiting by the tree for Godot, but were waiting alongside Godot unknown’s to themselves. I think that Godot is in front of everyone from the start. The tree on stage is dead. Godot is also dead. Godot in my opinion is faith. Estragon and Vladimir have faith through out the play even though they are waiting by a symbol which declares faith to be dead. This is great irony. I feel that Beckett is trying to say that people will always have faith even when they are bombarded with signs that there is no God. This may relate to the World War. Beckett fought in the war and witnessed the devastation caused by it. I think that the war copper-fastened Beckett’s belief that there is no god as there was no divine intervention to stop the bloodshed. The war itself was a great symbol, like the tree in waiting for Godot, to show that faith is dead and god does not exist. But people are blind to the obvious.