Themes of “Waiting for Godot”
Themes are important ingredient of a novel, play or poem. “Waiting for Godot” though has unclear themes yet every theme describes life from different perspectives. Its themes are very interesting. On one hand, Samuel Becket created a new kind of play; on the other hand he also created new themes in order to get attention of the readers. It is an unconventional play; therefore, its themes are also unconventional. It does not depict a single theme but discusses a lot of subjects related to life. Samuel Becket is best known due to his most famous play “Waiting for Godot” because it’s single theme i.e. “nothing to be done” has gotten the attention of many spectators. In this play, Samuel Becket has defined life; he has portrayed the reality of life. It does not have any story or plot even then its themes are significant. Critics have argued on the genre of this play but everyone remains fail to answer on its striking success because it has been written while violating every rule; it is without any plot and characterization. Thus, its themes may be the answer of this question. Success of this play is dependent on its remarkable themes.
“Nothing to be done” is the most important theme of this play. Vivian Mercier while describing this theme says: “it is a play in which nothing happens twice”. Estragon and Vladimir come on stage, bore the audience with their dialogues and goes on. In every act, dialogues and actions are repeated. One asks question to the other what to do? Other replies “nothing to be done” and the play goes on in this way. It also starts with the same dialogue. It defines the journey of life; a journey from nothingness to nothingness. We have come in the world but what is our purpose here? What is our identity? These questions have not been answered by the writer instead he asks these questions from the audience. He himself does not know their answers. Every person in this world is like Estragon and Vladimir, who is waiting for something but most of the time he cannot get what he wants and life ends just like the play ends. Every act of the play ends with despair. Nothing happens in it. Every person comes in this world spends his life but ultimately leaves this world. He cannot take anything with him. He does not bring anything to this world and cannot take anything with him. The dialogues “nothing to be done” have been repeatedly numerously in this play, which clear the definition of this play
Without hope, there is nothing in life; optimism comes to an end without hope. Thus, hope is necessary if one wants to live. This play also depicts this important theme. It forces us to think twice on the importance of hope. Estragon and Vladimir has nothing yet they are hopeful. It is only hope due to which they are living and waiting. They are waiting for something called Godot. It may be a help or maybe it is God but one thing is clear that both of them are hopeful about their future. They think that Godot will come and change their lives. The play ends with nothingness but the “wait and hope” never ends. Estragon and Vladimir will come again tomorrow at the same place and will wait for Godot until his arrival. Thus, the play depicts hope as important ingredient of life.
Suffering is another theme of “Waiting for Godot”. We can witness sufferings of heroes of this play. They are living a miserable life. Estragon has been beaten by strangers every night but he is helpless. God has created this world and has forgotten it after its creation. It seems that Samuel Becket has given this message to the audience. Apart from Estragon and Vladimir, Lucky is also suffering. His life is more miserable than Vladimir and Estragon. The sufferings of slavery class are evident in this play. We can say that Estragon and Vladimir are responsible for their miserable condition but Lucky is a slave; he born salve; he cannot help himself. He can just wait for good times i.e. only death. Perhaps, he would find something good in afterlife. But in this life, he can’t get peace. Thus, suffering of humans is also an important theme of this play. Vladimir’s speech, in this context, is helpful. He says:-
“Was I sleeping while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today?….can’t go on. What have I said?”
Becket has shown the world a way to get through life. Absurdity itself is a major theme of this play. Like Estragon and Vladimir, life can be spent; doing nothing, having irrational behavior, passing the ball and act ridiculously. Perhaps, this is the only way to get through life. This is also a method to avoid criticism; the best way to avoid criticism is to do nothing. Personally, I think that it is the most difficult way to get through life. While doing nothing and repeating silly actions, one can pass seconds but not whole life. It seems that Becket has preferred absurdity over existentialism. Anyhow, Samuel Becket has shown a way to go through life i.e. absurdity.
Difference in human races has also been shown in the play. This theme has importance of its own. Lucky is a symbol of slavery class, whereas Pozzo refers feudalism. Two types of human races have been presented through these characters. One is miserable, whereas second is enjoying benefits of life. Samuel Becket has shown the limitations of lower class and superiority of upper class.
In a nutshell, the play has many remarkable themes. Samuel Becket has closely observed life, therefore, every theme is related to life and reality. There are some other important themes of this play such as religion, mortality, waiting, ignorance, impotence and human relationships. Themes of the play directly strike the minds of audience and make this play successful. It seems that Samuel Becket, very minutely and after experiments, has rendered various themes in this play. Hence, there is no denial the fact that themes of the play are responsible behind striking success of the play.