Both Waiting for Godot and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are examples of the "Theater of the Absurd," which affirms:
- Humanity’s sense of alienation and existential angst: its loss of bearings in an illogical, unjust, and ridiculous world.
- The heavy use of sarcasm. Although serious, the plays can be quite comical…with much verbal and situation irony.
- Use non-linear, circular, episodic, or non-sequitir ("it does not follow") plot structures and use of dialogue.
In both plays, the characters are waiting around from someone who is not coming or does not exist. In Godot, they are obviously waiting for Godot, and even though Beckett says this is not necessarily "God," the implications are unavoidable. This begs the questions: why do we wait for God to reveal himself? And, when he does not, why has God removed Himself from the world? The players are unable to exist with or without Him. In the end, the two resolve to leave, and yet they do not move; they have reasoned themselves into inaction and paralysis--quite a paradox of illusion versus reality.
In Woolf?, the couple says they are waiting for their son to return for his birthday. Obviously, the son doesn't exist; he is symbolic of George, Nick, and Martha's father--all the young aspiring men in search of the American Dream. In the end, George must kill the son and exercise the demon from Martha. He must convince her that the American dream is an illusion, that all her hopes of becoming the son her father wanted (or at least marrying him) have created a life of games and illusion. So, again, a major theme is the games we play to convince ourselves that illusion is truth.