How is morality a theme in Waiting for Godot?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many readers believe that, in Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett promotes the idea that all life is meaningless and there is no point to existence. While there is certainly an absurd despair present in the play, and while the exploration of meaninglessness is one of the piece's central themes, Beckett is not actually as nihilistic as some people would like to believe. Indeed, one could even argue that Beckett presents us with a morality that relies upon friendship and human existence.

Consider, for instance, that this is a play of pairings. There are two sets of relationships: Vladimir and Estragon, and Lucky and Pozzo. It's certainly true that Pozzo abuses Lucky, and that Estragon and Vladimir argue and insult one another. However, it also seems that the members of each relationship rely on one another heavily. For instance, while Pozzo uses Lucky as his servant in Act 1, in Act 2 we see the roles reversed, with Lucky acting as the master and Pozzo stumbling along on a leash. Both Pozzo and Lucky seem to take turns relying on one another. Likewise, it's clear that both Estragon and Vladimir would be helpless if either one was on his own. For instance, Estragon only succeeds in pulling off his boot once Vladimir arrives. Furthermore, in Act 2 Vladimir covers the sleeping form of Estragon with his coat to make him more comfortable.

While subtle, it's clear that, in this world of "meaninglessness," the only thing that people can rely on is their connection to other humans. In that case, Beckett's morality relies upon human friendship. With friendship, Beckett says, we are able to overcome obstacles and support one another, and so the moral good involves nurturing the connection we have with others. Indeed, one could view the play as a poignant display of the way in which people utilize friendships to navigate the harsh and unfeeling external world. 

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Waiting for Godot

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