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Nearly Relevant
Nonsense, Fiction, and Miscellaneous Things

'Waiting for Godot', Samuel Beckett
      NOTE:  This is a review of the book, the Grove Press publication, Waiting for Godot© by Samuel Beckett.  It is not a review of any stage, theater, or otherwise theatrical production or performance.

      Generally, in these reviews, I try not to give too much of the book's details.   That way I'm not giving away spoilers or otherwise ruining somebody's experience of reading the book for themselves.   But this book is sparse in characters, setting, themes so I can't help but feel that, while mentioning little, it is still mentioning too much.  So just to let you know ahead of time, you may find the review useful only if you've already read the book or you may want to read the book before reading this review as the review mentions more detailed aspects of themes than I usually do.
      The play is basically a metonymy.  The characters - caricatures may be more apt - represent modern mankind in the wake of man's historical 'progress'.  The play's accoutrements - boots, rope, etc - represent larger concepts to which the items are related. Boots represent mobility - particularly as related to progress - rope is a binding, representing the philosophical and social ineffectualities of civilization.  As such  the characters don't evoke much sympathy because they're representative of concepts and social constructs. That is not to say there is no pathos to the characters but rather that the pathos is sort of  'seen' and 'understood' but not so much felt or evoked.
     Man's state of existence is depicted as penurious.   Whether of material concerns, soulful vexation, or the contrariness between intellection and affectivity, paucity is the characters - and by representation mankind's - dilemma.  The penurious existence can be seen as the antagonist, the anti-hero. The protagonist and hero is , by default, by pure necessity, a reposeful engagement of the characters within this framework of destitution. It's in this reposeful engagement - a companionship of a somewhat higher order - that the characters receive redemption from the bankruptcy of the visionary.

VLADIMIR:  Will night never come?  [All three look at the sky]
POZZO:  You don't feel like going untill it does?
ESTRAGON:  Well, you see -
POZZO:  Why it's very natural, very natural.  I myself in your situation.  If I had an appointment with Godin . . . Godet . . . Godot anyhow you see who I mean, I'd wait till it was black night before I gave up.
[He looks at the stool]  I'd very much like to sit down but I don't quite know how to go about it.1

     This example of bathos is not uncharacteristic of the play.  The moment begins dolefully only to end in absurdity.  Vladimir's question is serious-minded yet not hopeless, as the night brings some relief.  Pozzo's response is of a similar attitude honestly wondering with some small amount of pointing out an illogic in Vladimir's question.  At this point Estragon seems to back away from the sober-mindedness.  Maybe Estragon is perplexed by Pozzo's good-natured response (i. e. a good-naturedness Estragon's not been used to receiving) or the discussion is becoming - in Estragon 's view - mandatory of affinities which he's not prepared to give.  In any event, the conversation takes a turn to the humorous with it's sarcastic miscalling of the name Godot, and then turns absurd as Pozzo doesn't know how to go about sitting down.  This is an amenity between characters structured by repose.
      If, alternatively, you read this segment as frightening because of it's melancholy leading to the unanswerable, the unanswerable leading to absurdity, then you may see a penurious existence concretized by a fall into absurdity.  Although this brokenness is inherent in the play I don't think of it as the message of the play.
     Thus, two somewhat opposing views can be emphasized, redemptiveness or destitution.
     It's difficult for me to ignore the bright-side, the redemptiveness.   The pauperism of material and spirit doesn't preclude a Godsend.  Estragon's and Vladimir's reposeful engagement is quite humane and enlivening.  At one point,Lucky's abjection is represented as a relief;  It's a relief from life's contradictions and the false assurances of intellection;  It's a relief from aspirations which, apparently, have always been dashed rather than manifest.  If Lucky's abjection can take on a context of relief why can't Estragon's and Vladimir's engagements  - reposeful and considerate - take on a context of redemption or salvation presaged by Lucky's relief?  This redemption may not be measurable on a standard scale but that lack only begs the question of man's progressiveness and understanding.   
      Paucity as not in and of itself being an unmitigated splotch on the record extends even to a meta of the play itself.  If you consider the frugality of the play, with its' few characters, over a limited 2 day period, with impedimenta of boots, various bags, rope etc. then - with some leap of extrapolation -  those aspects can equate to the characters'  less than hopeful circumstances.  In turn the play's acclaim can then be seen as  coincident with the redemption of the characters;  The redemption being found in their humane - albeit fractious, perplexed, embracing, as well as absurd - dealings with one another.
     The play speaks to just how lacking is the interpersonal in man's worldview and just how inflated and perplexing is a worldview relying on the conceptual, the visionary, the ideological.
     One last thing.  There is a soliloquy by the character Lucky which is quite discerning and humorous. It is kind of a satire of the scientific method were the scientific method taken to extremis.  The result is nonsensical, mocking, and downright funny as well as indisputably pertinent.  Here's a small part of the soliloquy:

LUCKY:  " . . . labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt . . . "2  Ha, ha!

1Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett ©1954, Grove Press, New York, N.Y., pg. 27
2Ibid, pg. 34

UPDATE:  8/31/14 - It has occured to me that if you replace 'Godot' in 'Waiting for Godot' with 'Godsend' - such that it would read 'Waiting for Godsend' - then you'd have a better idea of what the book is about.   There are metaphorical uses of 'Godsend' such that the idea of waiting for a godsend is, within the book, not solely of religious meaning.  For, example, Estragon and Vladimir's 'Godsend' might be a bag of money, that kind of thing.
     In other words 'Godot' is a personification of the  idea of 'Godsend'.

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