Absurdism and “Waiting for Godot”

Jenna O’Neill 12 LY Drama essay absurdism Absurd theatre was highly influenced by the happenings of the time. World War 1 was a catalyst for the existentialist philosophy, from which absurdism is based, in which people began to question the solidity of morals. Originating in Paris during the mid 20th century, absurdism became recognized as being a reaction the realism. While realism aimed to hold a mirror up to society to point out societies faults, absurdism points out the pointlessness of human existence.

In a time of great depression, absurdists believed that the best way to cope with the “pointless of existence” was to laugh at it. The Existentialistic philosophy, around which absurdism is based, focuses on the point that most of our decisions are impacted by morals, of which man himself has made. The question was posed, how we can base our lives around some objective “rules” we made up ourselves?

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If God and objective morals are taken out of people’s lives, we are left completely free, but in an alien environment. This freedom shows itself in the play of “waiting for Godot” as the two characters, Estragon and Vladimir are isolated from society. We see that this isolation was a conscious choice on their parts as this is a dialogue between the two saying “we lost our rights” and the other replies “no, we got rid of them”. This freedom leaves the characters confused and without obvious purpose.

This freedom allows for the characters to make any choice they please, for example, to hang themselves or to leave. This freedom ultimately scares them as they do not want to take responsibility for their choices. In a dialogue it is said “what shall we do” and the other replies “nothing, it’s safer” It is due to this scaring freedom that Lucky is considered lucky as he does not have to make any decisions himself but is rather dependent on Pozzo for making his choices.

Although the slave like nature with which Lucky is treated looks undesirable to the reader, it is implied by Becket that we ourselves make constraints and rules in order to give us some purpose. Before world war II people were gilded by religious morals, but with the post war trauma, people began to question the validity of religion and rules that were made by society. The existentialist philosophers realised that when all the rules and guidelines are removed from our lives, we are left in a meaningless world we are ultimately “born astride a grave” (Pozzo)

The repeated motif of “nothing to be done” is pointing out the existentialist philosophy that we merely do activities to help us pass the time until we die. It is because of this that we constantly see Didi and Gogo playing foolish games like swapping of hats and playing word games. Absurdist playwrights aimed to showed the audience the “meaningless of life” in a comic way as laughing is the only way to help one cope with the realization and apprehension caused by the fact that ”life if pointless”

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