When Martin Esslin published his book The Theater of Absurd in 1960, only then did the phrase “Theater of Absurd” become popular. The theatre of absurd illustrates an attitude and a frame of mind towards life, where human existence is a conundrum of illogical, senseless, and hopeless activity.
The movement, activity, and chats of the characters of an absurd drama do not carry any real sense. And it is on this idea that Beckett penned his most popular absurd play “Waiting for Godot”. It does not have a proper plot or a proper setting. The talks and the actions of the two central characters Vladimir and Estragon do not carry any real sense. And all these make Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” an absurd play.
The absurdity of human existence in “Waiting for Godot”
The absurdity of human existence is a main aspect of an absurd play. And Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” exhibits this absolute truth through the characters of Vladimir and Estragon. They dwell in a world without any consoling allusions about the necessity of law and order, the assurance of life after death, and the significance of work and accomplishment. They dwell in a world where anything can happen at any time, where savagery and cruelty can take place at any time. They are living such a life where there is no help of any kind. Vladimir and Estragon are basically quite sincere about their indistinct liability to wait for this unknown figure who might or might not arrive and who might or might not reward for their devotion and sincerity.
Lack of setting in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”:
The setting of “Waiting for Godot” constitutes an absurdist atmosphere in the audience. The setting of the play consists of a barren country road, a tree, and a ditch constituting the desolate, unearthly countryside whose only inhabitants are two tramps Vladimir and Estragon. There is nothing to be done and there is no such best place to go around. The tree, often an emblem of growth and creation with its fruits and flowers, is evidently lifeless. But Vladimir and Estragon are also sure that Godot has asked them to come to this place. This shows that Godot wants human beings to feel the barrenness and fruitlessness of life. Such a setting of the play reminds us of the condition of the world after the two world wars as the world wars caused anxieties, confusion, hopelessness, and new problems to all of humankind.
Lack of a proper plot in “Waiting for Godot”
In a literary work, a plot should focus on a single action and is also likely to have a proper start, a middle, and an end. But Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” does not have an exposition or beginning, middle, and an end. The play’s end is precisely the same as the start. Throughout the play, the playwright does not even try to develop the characters or describe them. The central characters Vladimir and Estragon’s unending waiting for an unknown figure is the principal activity of the play. “Nothing happens twice”, comments Vivian Mercier, an Irish Critic. What Beckett wants to convey through this play is nothing happens – and in real life too nothing happens.
Unreliability of language in “Waiting for Godot”
According to Esslin, a traditional play depends on witticism and sharp dialogues, but the absurd drama depends on disjointed and incomprehensible babbling. Samuel Beckett discarded language as an authentic and dependable source of certainty. Becket was aware that language could never carry meaning accurately. This is also the reason why he portrays Vladimir and Estragon passing most of their time playing around with words and expressions. They are constantly chattering and babbling but they are not able to reach any kind of result.
Stuttering and fumbling are noticeable in the character’s speech, for instance, Pozzo’s expression on Vladimir’s critique: “I cannot bear it… any longer… the way he goes on… you’ve no idea… it’s terrible.”(Act I, Waiting for Godot). This speech from Pozzo is much like baby talk. When Estragon is talking to Vladimir, hesitancy is noticeable in his words. “Er… you’ve finished with the… er… you don’t need the… er bones, sir?”(Act II, Waiting for Godot). Actually, Samuel Beckett wanted to show the disconnection between speech and memory, meaning and reality. Thereby, he reveals how irregular and deceptive language is.
To conclude we can say that Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” consists of all the characteristics of an absurd drama. Meaningless, senseless, illogicality, and ignorance which surrounded humankind following the world wars and created an absurd existence, is represented by Samuel Beckett in “Waiting for Godot”. Beckett observed this purposeless condition and portrayed it through two tramps Vladimir and Estragon. Beckett illustrated these two tramps in a useless condition without any genuine action. Nonetheless, “Waiting for Godot” as an absurd play has gone on to become a masterpiece that remodeled the face of postmodern drama.
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