Christian Themes (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Although Beckett claimed he was not a Christian, the quest for salvation is the cornerstone of the play and frequent Christian allusions serve as its subtext. However, in Waiting for Godot, these allusions serve not to assert belief, but to dramatize its decadence. Once Christianity provided Western civilization with a construct of meaning and hope, but now, decimated by the horrors of two world wars and the deconstruction of reality and meaning in modern philosophy, it is no longer credible. Because the characters no longer believe in Christianity or in anything, they are helpless and alone in a meaningless universe. Yet because the language and values of Christianity are the only ones they know, it serves them as a point of reference for their urgent need to find meaning and purpose. Thus, Estragon compares himself to Christ as the model for his own suffering. Waiting for the mysterious Godot can be understood as humankind waiting for redemption from an otherwise unbearable life. Although Beckett strenuously denied that Godot was God, in Waiting for Godot, as the object of the characters’ ultimate longings and their hope for salvation, he serves a similar function as God. In act 1, Vladimir and Estragon speak of addressing Godot with a kind of prayer. At the end of act 2, the boy-messenger—a possible allusion to Christ—describes him as an old man with a white beard. This description evokes from Vladimir the plaintive cry, “Christ have...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Waiting for Godot Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
In this richly evocative "story" about two men who wait for another who never comes there are so many possible themes it is difficult to enumerate them. Those that are readily apparent include the issues of absurdity, alienation and loneliness, appearance and reality, death, doubt and ambiguity, time, the meaning of life, language and meaning, and the search for self. But one theme that encompasses many of these at once is the question of the human condition—who are we as humans and what is our short life on this planet really like?
We appear to be born without much awareness of our selves or our environment and as we mature to gradually acquire from the world around us a sense of identity and a concept of the universe. However, the concept of human life that we generally acquire may be fraught with illusions. Early in his life Beckett dismissed the Christian concept of God and based his concept of the human condition on the assumption that human existence ends in the grave, that our most monumental achievements are insignificant measured by the cosmic scales of time and space, and that human life without illusions is generally difficult and sad. Vladimir and Estragon live in a world without comforting illusions about human dignity, the importance of work and achievement, the inevitability of justice, or the promise of an afterlife of eternal bliss. They live in a world where almost nothing is certain, where simply getting...
(The entire section is 1274 words.)