Samuel Beckett’s Devaluation of Language in “Waiting for Godot”

Samuel Beckett's Devaluation of Language in "Waiting for Godot"

“Yet, if Beckett devalues language, he continues to use it and, bilingually, to show a mastery of it”. How far do you agree with this view? “Waiting for Godot”.

Samuel Beckett cannot be forgotten because of his contribution to theater. He, while ignoring the traditional concepts, invented a new form of drama. He enlarged the thinking capacity of writers and showed them that a writer is nod bound to rules in order to show his talent on stage. He proved Aristotle wrong to the effect that plot is not the soul of tragedy and a drama can be written without plot as well as action. Whenever, Samuel Becket’s play is presented on the stage, spectators have to change their mind from concept of conventional play absurd theater. Everyone must adjust mind in order to watch the play of Samuel Becket. Neither plot nor action is the soul of any play in the eyes of Samuel Becket. His plays are dependent on dialogues and without dialogues, they are nothing. Hence, dialogues can be considered as soul for the plays of Samuel Becket.

There is no denial the fact that Samuel Becket devalues the language. He creates meaning and vocabulary of his own and uses it bilingually. He has written plays in English as well as in French but he continuously uses the same words again and again for the same meanings. In this regard, his style is unique and he is exclusive owner of the words used in his plays. He creates new words or attaches new meanings to old conventional words. His style is totally in contrast to rest of the dramatist of English literature. Becket’s plays have empty setting, therefore, he plays with words. The flaw, which is noticed in the Becket’s plays, is that he disregards many of grammar’s basic rules. No doubt, in both, writing style and structure of plays, Becket did not follow the congenital rules. Thus, his style of writing is totally unconventional and at remote from other play-writers of his era. No one can surpass, Samuel Beckett in masterly use of language. Although, he devalues the language but it suits his plays. Whether it is called flaw or not but it is clear that the style, followed by him, is perfect for his plays and he cannot be ignored merely on this reason. It should be remembered that he does not cheapens the English language only but also French. No matter, in which language he is writing the play, style is same.

“Waiting for Godot” is based on passing the words. Characters talks and even in ordinary words sum up the entire universe. There is hardly any dialogue, in the play, which is longer than a sentence. If there is any, it is concise and clear. Although sentence of every dialogue is short yet it is not short so far as its meaning is concerned. Characters argue with each other but apparently there dialogues are not philosophical. Every dialogue, in the play, is not based on numerous themes related to life, death and religion but they are dependent on the mind of spectator/reader. It depends on the knowledge and experience as well as thinking capacity of the audience that which meaning is being drawn while watching the play. Becket has created a situation which is definitely experienced by everyone at least once in life, therefore, truth is attached to it. Language of the play is simple yet a clever mind is required to understand it.  Moreover, not everyone draws the same meaning from the dialogues of this play. Each and every mind considers the sense of this play differently because it is dependent on experience and knowledge of the viewer. A critic, while commenting on “Waiting for Godot” writes:-

“It was an expression, symbolic in order to avoid all personal error, by an author who expects each member of his audience to draw his own conclusions, make his own errors. It asked nothing in point, it forced no dramatized moral on the view, it held out no specific hope.”

If the meanings, attached to every single word of the dialogues, are ignored then a conclusion can be drawn that this play is totally pointless. Being viewers of the play, one thing should be remembered that each dialogue means something in the plays of Samuel Becket. Samuel Becket once asked what does “Waiting for Godot” meant for. He replied:-

“If I knew, I would have said so in the play”.

The writer very cleverly answered the question. He has mentioned in the play the purpose of writing this play but a mastermind is required to find the purpose for which the play has been written. We see two characters pass times by playing different games. Even, to pass the time, they play a game, in which they abuse each other. Samuel Becket has some limitations while writing plays. “Joyce” and “Waiting for Godot” are significant examples of it. Most of the dialogues are repeated again and again in the plays but the thing, which is remarkable, is that with every repetition of the dialogue, its meaning changes.

The crux of the above discussion is that there is no shame in the eyes of Beckett to devalue a language. He is definitely unconventional and does not want to follow the rules of any tragedy and language. Whether it is English or French, every language is moulded in a way by Becket that it creates magnificence for the viewers. It is only Beckett, who can write a drama without any setting, action, plot and characterization. His plays have only language in form of dialogues and meanings attached to it; therefore, he skillfully and masterly uses it. He is master in shaping language and shows it in his plays. Since the truth is attached to the statement, “Yet, if Beckett devalues language, he continues to use it and, bilingually, to show a mastery of it”, therefore, it is totally acceptable.