Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reader's Diary #624- Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot

I'd recently picked up this up at a yard sale here in Yellowknife. On that note, I just have to say how astounded I was by the used books to be found on the local yard sale circuit. I'd expected a load of Nora Roberts, Clive Cusslers, and James Pattersons. Instead I found Becketts, Laurences, and Doestoevskys. I can't help but feel a sense of snobbish pride in my town.

Waiting for Godot was not what I expected. I'd heard of it many times, but little about the details. I was expecting something along the lines of Death of a Salesman. How wrong I was.

Waiting for Godot is absurd. I've since learned the term "Theatre of the Absurd" and apparently, Waiting for Godot is one of the most recognized examples of this genre of play. Not surprisingly, as I read it I kept picturing John Cleese and Eric Idle in the roles of Vladimir and Estragon respectively.

The play goes nowhere, quite literally. In the only two acts, the scene doesn't change. Nor does much happen. Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot at the beginning of the play and continue to wait for him as the play closes. We're never told why or who Godot is, nor do we learn hardly anything about Vladimir and Estragon. The most exciting thing that happens is a visit from Pozzo, a man with a whip and a leash attached to another man named Lucky. (Surprisingly, Pozzo and Lucky didn't seem nearly as into S & M as I just described them.) Some people believe that Pozzo was actually Godot himself and such assumptions are what makes the play so great.

Beckett must have had an uncanny ability to hone in our need for answers. For a play with so much tedious repetition and so little action, it is amazingly not boring. It's funny (darkly funny), quirky, and most importantly, vague. However, unlike a lot of authors do vague with an obvious pretense of higher meaning, Beckett's intentions are never clear. Does this play say anything or not? Then, if it doesn't have a message but we, as a result of our human nature, insist on finding one, that in itself becomes a message. You can see what a conundrum I'm in.

Here's my theory. Vladimir and and Estragon represent our westernized, first world society, with nothing better to do that hypothesize about God (hence GODot), religion (hence all the Biblical references), philosophy and the meaning of Beckett's play. We think we sound smart but we're no closer to the truth than we ever were or ever will be and we continue to wait for answers. Occasionally, we'll take notice of other societies who have real issues to worry about (Pozzo and Lucky), but it has little effect on our own frivolousness and futility. It's a cynical interpretation, I guess.

I don't really know what it's about. I love it.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Kudos on the quality of your garage sale literature! It's definitely more along the Cliver Barker lines around here.

I've never read Waiting for Godot, nor seen it performed. I've been too busy pondering the nature of our existence.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I've heard of a couple of versions, one with Robin Williams and Steve Martin, and the other with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. I still think John Cleese and Eric Idle is the way to go.

Loni said...

I'm so excited that you read Waiting for Godot. It's one of my favourites. I read it in university and it's stayed with me (oh so many years later).