Power of friendship and relationship in Waiting for Godot and Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Human happiness in a Beckettian style. Endgame and Waiting for Godot of 1957 and 1953 by Samuel Beckett are texts that show little sign of conventional happiness of human existence. Instead they pursue an absurdist and nihilistic themes where humans are pictured in a hopeless and repetitive daily routine. These two Beckett’s literary texts could be considered as a response to damages and degradation of humanity caused by the Second World War of 1939 – 1945.
Both texts explore existential questions about life and the role of humanity in the world, and our happiness with the environment and ourselves. “Are we happy? ” appears in Waiting for Godot many times. A sense of truth and happiness within human existence has been a central question for a long time in human enquiry. In fact it could be argued that a man needs another human to fully achieve conventional potential of happiness. Happiness and our existence only mean something if a human can share it with someone else.
Beckett sets up his characters in pairs: Hamm and Clov, Nell and Nagg of Endgame; Vladimir and Estragon and Lucky and Pozzo of Waiting for Godot, implying in the same way that a man needs another human to share their experiences, conversations and to explore their potential to be happy or to reject happiness. “All of Beckett’s pairs are bound in friendship that are essentially power-relationships” (Pilling, 71). Godot and Endgame. Beckett’s characters are set in a daunting, endless process of waiting; waiting for something or somebody that may or may not appear.
It is the fact that each day of Beckett characters’ life is typified by the same repetitive I would like to pursue aspects of this argument by examining some of examples in Samuel Beckett Waiting for routine. As John Pilling condemns “in fact, time does not pass in this world; rather, the characters have to find ways of passing the time. One solution adopted by Beckett’s characters is mechanical repetition, re-enacting situations without perceiving any significance in these repeated actions” (Pilling, 72). Especially the conversation seems to be repetitive, s words that we can read in the beginning of both of the plays are later repeated many times: “Hamm: Is it not time for my painkiller? ” (Becket, Endgame, 8) “Estragon: Nothing to be done” (Beckett, Godot,1) “Estragon: Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful! ” (Becket, Godot, 34). Estragon and Vladimir keep saying: “We are waiting for Godot”, “Are we happy? ” as if they wanted to remind themselves the reasons of why they are here. Insignificance of Beckett characters conversation explicit how little and insignificant things can impact human existence and happiness: “Nagg: Me sugar-plum!
Hamm: There are no more sugar-plums! ” (Becket, Endgame, 34) How can a single sugar-plum make somebody happy? Yet, it is the fact that we cannot “consequently seek for ‘logical’ explanations” (Pilling, 80) of Beckett language and logical facts of happiness. Happiness can be subjective, as it can have different level of meaning for different human being. As the literary texts progress, we also discover that Beckett treats us with different types of friendship and relationships. Pozzo and Lucky of Waiting for Godot and Hamm and Clove of Endgame represent a “master and servant relationship”.
In Waiting for Godot, Pozzo has unnatural power over Lucky; he drives him as if he drove a horse carriage. While in Endgame Clove stays with Hamm only because Hamm is paralysed, but also because the world outside of the room they live in is dead. (Boxall, p 141 – 142). An interesting relationship is the one of Godot and his power over Vladimir and Estragon. “The elusiveness of Godot signals that the net of Godot has an aspect of absurdity” (Soon Kim, 22) as it makes Vladimir and Estragon obsessed with waiting for him. Absence of Godot makes two of them trapped in a Godot’s net of endless waiting.
In contrast, Vladimir and Estragon of Waiting for Godot are like an old married couple, who provide mutual support for each other. Example of that care could be visible in the scene when Estragon removes his shoes: “Vladimir: But you can’t go barefoot! Estragon: Christ did. Vladimir: Christ! What’s Christ got to do with it? You’re not going to compare yourself to Christ! Estragon: All my life I’ve compared myself to him Vladimir: But where he lived it was warm, it was dry! Estragon: Yes. And they crucified quick. Vladimir: We’ve nothing more to do here. “ (Godot,46) Vladimir worries about Estragon that he “cannot go barefoot! Yet at the same time his words retain wider discourse. Conversely, Hamm and Clove have got different type of relationship and different perspectives of that relationship: “Clov: There’s one thing I’ll never understand. Why I always obey you. Can you explain that to me? Hamm: No … Perhaps it’s compassion. A kind of great compassion. Oh you won’t find it easy, you won’t find it easy. ” (Beckett, Endgame, 45). It is the fact, however, that there is no logical explanation about Hamm and Clove’s “compassion”, rather than that it is a “frustrated relationship based on selfishness” (Soon Kim, 58).
The Beckettian idea of Hamm and Clove happy relationship is based on obligation and dialogue: “Hamm: Clov! Nothing. Clov! Clov: This is what we call making an exit. Hamm: I’m obliged to you, Clov. For your services. Clov: Ah pardon, it’s I am obliged to you. Hamm: It’s we are obliged to each other (…) Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing. Let me see (…)” (Beckett, Endgame 48 -49). “The illusion that Beckett tries to deconstruct in Endgame is not only the quest for the meaning of existence. Through the dialogic nature of the play, Beckett raises questions about dualistic division in life” (Soon Kim, 58).
Throughout both of the plays, Beckett’s paired characters continue to enhance the repetitiveness of their own existence and dialogue, but also could be considered to imply that a man cannot exist entirely on its own. Certainly, human being needs another human being to keep the dialogue! Beckett insinuates that one likes the feeling of being needed and that feeling make ones life worthwhile. If we look for examples in texts, we can find an example in Waiting for Godot in which Vladimir and Estragon are helping out Pozzo and Lucky: “Vladimir: let us do something, while we have the chance!
It is not every day that we are needed. (…) Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! (…) But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come”. (Beckett, Godot p 72) Indeed, the reader gets a clear impression about Bekettian idea of “being needed” and happiness related to it, however the main point still reflects on “waiting for Godot” and hope that this waiting brings more happiness to
Vladimir and Estragon lives. Pathetic as it is, their conversation shows their indecisive nature about what they want from Godot. “There is only an atmosphere of their ambiguous wish for ‘something’ that might improve their present circumstances” (Soon Kim, 24). Furthermore, in a scene where Pozzo and Lucky meet Estragon and Vladimir, Beckett, speaking through Pozzo, emphasises another example and is in evidence of impact of the relationship and friendship on becoming happier: “The more people I meet the happier I become.
From the meanest creature one departs wiser, richer, more conscious of one’s blessing”. (Beckett, Godot,22). As contradicting as it may seem Endgame actually raises unhappiness as a source for happiness, speaking through conversation of Nell and Nagg: “Nell: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. ButNagg: Oh! Nell: Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing” (Beckett, Endgame,14) They laugh because of their hopeless situation they found themselves in – living in bins – like food waste.
Their laughter could be seen as a way of separating themselves from unhappiness. However, most importantly, they are happy just by being together and recalling times of their engagement, when Nell “felt happy” (Beckett, Endgame,15 – 16) “Beckett’s theatre has its mysteries, its question-marks, for the author as much as for ourselves” (Fletcher, p109). Therefore the conception of happiness can be widely interpreted by Beckett’s readers. Human happiness therefore is a result of multiple factors and can be caused even by ones unhappiness as proved in Endgame.
By populating his narrative and setting his characters in pairs Beckett proves that human needs another human to fully exist and feel happy. Regardless of the type of this relationship, being it selfish and powerful like Hamm and Clov or based on friendship like Estragon and Vladimir, it is the fact that existence requires sharing with another human. The argument in this work has focused on some of the cases of human happiness, however other scholars can interpret these observations differently. 1. Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2009. 2.
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2000. 3. Pilling, John. The Cambridge companion to Beckett. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1994. 4. Boxall, Peter. Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot/Endgame A reader’s guide to essential criticism. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd, 2000 5. Fletcher, John. A Faber critical guide Samuel Beckett. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2000. 6. Soon Kim, Hwa. The counterpoint of hope, obsession, and desire for death in five plays by Samuel Beckett. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc, 1996.