Saturday, June 8, 2013

Same Old -- An In-Class Timed-Write by Eunice Choi

In Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy Waiting for Godot, the two protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, represent more than just two individuals waiting for Godot; these two stand for all of humanity. Their undeniable similarity emphasizes the nature of the repetitive play and the characters’ circular lives. 

Throughout the play, Vladimir and Estragon display numerous signs of interchangeability in their characteristics. Repetitions of lines, switching of lines, and swapping of actions between the two individuals make the two indistinguishable from one another. Often times, the same trope recurs several times in a row, such as when Estragon states, “The circus…the circus” (Beckett 26) when comparing their awful evening to horrible objects. When Act I comes to a close, Estragon asks, “Well, shall we go?” (Beckett 45) and Vladimir responds, “Yes, let’s go” (Beckett 45). However, at the conclusion of Act II, the characters switch lines as Vladimir asks to leave and Estragon responds, “Yes, let’s go” (Beckett 85). This repetition of the final two lines from the previous act shows an important parallelism. These characters are shown to be interchangeable and equal. Also, when the boy comes to meet Vladimir and Estragon in the second act, Vladimir seems to finish the boy’s sentences. Vladimir already knows what the boy will say. This exchange, again, suggests that the dialogue has occurred many times before and represents a larger sample of the circle that defines these two similar characters’ lives. 

Through their similarity, Samuel Beckett cleverly utilizes these two individuals to emphasize the insignificance of mankind. Although each individual seems to differ in trivial characteristics, such as appearance, "[we are all] human beings nonetheless…made in God’s image” (Beckett 18). The countless number of religious allusions throughout both acts suggests that Godot may stand for God, and Vladimir and Estragon are just waiting for God while their pointless and meaningless lives pass by.  Godot seems to be highly respected, as Vladimir and Estragon argue and finally settle with “Let’s wait and see what [Godot] says” (Beckett 10). From allusions to the repenting of sins to allusions of the Holy Land, Beckett provides much evidence that human life is pointless and everyone is the same. What truly matters is when Godot, (or God?), is present. Vladimir explains to Estragon "The savior [saved them] from death” (Beckett 5) and these two individuals may just be waiting in idleness and vanity for death as well. 

Some who oppose the belief that the two characters represent the similarity of all men might argue that Vladimir stands dominant above Estragon. Although this theory may hold true as Vladimir provides Estragon with nourishment in the form of a carrot and Vladimir often furiously implores, “Let’s go!” the roles do seem to reverse and reciprocate. When Estragon tries to sleep, Vladimir wakes him up because he “felt lonely” (Beckett 80). Throughout Waiting for Godot, Estragon displays dependency on Vladimir and vice-versa, thus they stand to be identical like all of mankind.

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