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What is the function of the boy at the end of each act in Waiting for Godot who...

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pearl7391 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 20, 2012 at 3:23 AM via web

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What is the function of the boy at the end of each act in Waiting for Godot who delivers the message of Godot?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 20, 2012 at 5:43 AM (Answer #1)

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Let’s separate the functions of a character, any character, in a drama: to advance the plot, the conflict, the story, the “drama” is the first and obvious function; let’s call this the “operative” function.  But there is also a symbolic function, a device for the playwright to “say” what he wants to say.  The first set of functions of the boys (or “boy” if you prefer that interpretation) is not the “operative” one because, as has been made clear numerous times, Beckett is not writing an “imitation of an action in the form of action”, Aristotle’s division of  Poetry into epic, dramatic, and lyric.  Beckett is imitating inaction, as his view of human existence – without purpose or meaning.  The boys, then, represent one aspect of inaction – the all-too-human illusion that there is some sort of messenger or code between Man and Purpose.  That he brings on this messenger twice, with ambiguous messages, is part of the structure of Beckett’s worldview, both here and in his other writings – Gogo and Didi, Pozzo and Lucky, etc.  Even the confusion in the identification of the boys is Beckettian, another example of non-certainty, of “differences that make no difference.”  To my knowledge, there has never been a production in which the same boy actor did not play both roles.  So the simple answer to your question is that the boys personify the mistaken (in Beckett’s view) notion that we receive messages of instruction from some imaginary place and Being, messages that determine whether we are “obeying” or “disobeying.”

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