Waiting for Godot Relevancy for us in Modern Times

“Waiting for Godot” is a play, that has themes of boredom, no female characters, no love story, very less action and no development in the plot yet it is a successful play by Samuel Beckett. It has been translated into many languages. It has been performed in many countries by different types of actors. The play depicts a human activity of waiting for an unknown person or entity called Godot. Whether Godot is an object, an entity or a person, is never revealed and the play finishes while the characters wait for him.

It starts with waiting and ends with it. The purpose of the play is unexplained. Vivian Mercier, while commenting on the play says that it is a play in which “nothing happens, twice”. We see no story and no message in it. It depicts a situation, which is generally applicable to every human. Two characters come on the stage and try to waste their time on useless activities. They talk but it has no meaning at all. Even sometimes, they try to abuse each other so that they can pass the time. Their purpose is to wait for someone and during the wait, they can do nothing. Time and again repetition of the dialogue “nothing to be done” suggests the meaninglessness of life. Both these characters are less important because they serve no purpose in the development of the plot.

Waiting for Godot Relevancy for us in Modern Times

The most important thing in the play is Godot whose coming is expected. The audience also waits for Godot along with Estragon and Vladimir but he does not come and the play ends as it started. When Samuel Becket, writer of the play, was asked; who is Godot? He replied: “If I knew, I would have said so in the play”. If no one knows about Godot even after watching the play, then what is its purpose and why it has been discussed and watched up till now? The answer may not be as simple as it seems but it is clear that the play still has freshness and relevance even today. That’s why students of literature are still discussing it.

“Waiting for Godot” is the name of a situation. The first and foremost element, due to which the play is relevant for us even today is that it answers the question “How to get through life?” Very wittily, the writer has answered this question by sketching two characters, who do nothing in the whole play. They know that life is full of pains, miseries and suffering. They have no other option to spend their lives except to talk to and abuse each other. They have nothing to do; therefore, it is much more difficult for them to pass the time. They try to commit suicide but fail; therefore, they have only one option and that is to continue their struggle.

Life remained purposeless in every era. In the present day, no difference can be faced in this regard. Even today’s life is meaningless. Everyone is busy and has priorities but for what purpose? They came into the world empty-handed and will return one day. Their busy lives will have no value after death. We, like Estragon and Vladimir, are trying to spend our lives. How many of us are living life? We are not living life; we are passing it. In order to get through life, we have to talk and be absurd. Silence is not an option for us nor for Estragon and Vladimir; therefore, both the characters pass their time while doing absurd things and abusing each other.

In this play, the situation is worst for Vladimir and Estragon and to deal with it they have a solution; they can spend a life: by force of habit, by going on in spite of boredom and pain, by talking, by not listening to the silence and absurdly. It is a lesson, which should be learnt. Thus, the play is relevant for us because it tells us how to get through life.

A picture of human application has been given in the play which is waiting. Two persons are waiting for someone and he is not even introduced to the audience. Neither Estragon nor Vladimir knows about him nor has the audience been informed about him till the end of the play. His identity remains a mystery for the audience yet the conclusion can be drawn that Godot is the name of hope. As discussed above, the situation has become worst for Vladimir and Estragon but they still have hope that Godot will come and with his arrival, their life will be changed.

Earnest Hemingway once said that “every day is a new day”. Thus, he is of the view that every day comes with new hope. Estragon and Vladimir are doing the same. They are waiting for hope and so as we; a hope, which can change lives. Many of us are waiting for good days. Although life has become meaningless for many of us; still we are living with the hope that one day it will be changed.

One of the best examples to be quoted from Urdu Literature is of an Urdu essay writer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. He has written an essay titled “Umeed Ki Kiran”, in which he has very beautifully explained the importance of hope in life. He says that if a prisoner is alive in the lockup, the reason behind it is optimism. He has hope that one day he will get freedom and will spend a free life. In the same way, many of us struggle in our lives with the hope that one day we will become successful. Aren’t we doing so? Are not our lives similar to Estragon and Vladimir even today?

The answer is positive. Everyone has hope for better things in life. Whether hope (Godot) comes or not, the wait continues. If it comes, well and good; wait for better. If not then wait for it. It is the theme of the play. The ending of the play does not end the struggles of Estragon and Vladimir. We know that they will come again tomorrow and will repeat their activity of waiting. It is the only option for them and for many of us. Hence, it is also an element in the play, due to which, it is applicable to us even today.

Apart from the above, there is a number of reasons why the play is relevant to us. There is still an element of hope. Many of us are waiting for Godot. Life is still undefined and meaningless. We wait for something/someone daily like Estragon and Vladimir. There is still class consciousness as presented through Pozo and Lucky. The play is not about Godot; it is not about what will happen if Godot comes. Instead, it is about waiting. It is about the situation before hope. Thus, it is about the life of individuals on earth not hereafter. The wait is still a common human activity, which every individual faces at least once in a day. In this way, it is certain that “Waiting for Godot” is relevant to us today.

Related Question(s):

  • Is Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” relevant to us today?