Waiting for Godot Questions and Answers
by Samuel Beckett

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What is the significance of the title of the play Waiting for Godot?

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The significance of the title rests on the situational irony that the wait for Godot is entirely trifling. Yet, the collateral dynamics that result from this abortive task are as illogical as the wait itself.

Within an existentialist context, the wait is symbolic of human reality. It is the amalgamation of our need for hope, purpose and direction versus the reality that there is no absolute law that explains any hope, purpose, or reason for anything. Realistically, our lives are a product of perspective and upbringing, not to mention the eternal debate of nature versus nurture. Hence, we all wait in different ways: praying, hoping, meditating, thinking ahead, or stopping altogether. 

Essentially, this "wait" is an existential problem for all individuals. The succession of issues that present themselves in a lifespan may render us dependent on the expectation that something may come our way, or may change us forever. In the meantime, we meet characters, see things, and witness situations not unlike those seen by Vladimir and Estragon: things that are odd, cruel, senseless, even morbid. It is all a part of existing. The wait will always be there. 

He didn't say for sure he'd come.
And if he doesn't come?
We'll come back tomorrow.
And then the day after tomorrow.
And so on.
The point is—
Until he comes.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Samuel Beckett's English play Waiting for Godot is actually his own translation of a play he originally wrote in French, under the title "En attendant Godot." The French phrase has the literal meaning of waiting for Godot, but far more than the English conveys the sense "while waiting for Godot," with more emphasis on what happens while waiting than on Godot's eventual arrival (or failure to arrive).

While many critics have noted the sonic relationship between "Godot" and "God" in English, this parallel does not really apply to the original French text, as the French word for God is "Dieu," which does not bear any obvious relationship to "Godot."

What makes the title significant is that drama and dramatic criticism before the advent of modernism emphasized plot and action. Aristotle, for example, defined tragedy as follows:

Again, Tragedy is the imitation of an action; ... every play contains Spectacular elements as well as Character, Plot, Diction, Song, and Thought. ... But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. For Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. ...  Hence the incidents and the plot are the end of a tragedy; and the end is the chief thing of all. Again, without action there cannot be a tragedy; there may be without character. 

We generally think of waiting as a stage prior to action. In other words, we "wait" for something to happen. In using the word "waiting" in the title of his play, Beckett is suggesting that the play breaks with the tradition of drama-as-action and instead offers us something different, a pure view into the characters in a state of inactivity. 

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In Waiting for Godot, the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, spend days waiting for someone named Godot. A boy comes with a message that Godot is not coming and they continue to wait. The waiting itself is an exercise in futility. Godot is never going to show up and the two characters discuss options such as suicide (which they fail in the attempt), keep waiting, and leaving. They try to leave multiple times, but they can't. So, they keep waiting. The repetition and redundancy express the characters steadfast desire for resolution despite becoming totally frustrated in the lack of results for their time spent.

Godot, as if he were a savior or someone who can give them answers, represents certainty and meaningfulness. Since he never arrives, Vladimir and Estragon are faced with living in a world where certainty and meaning never present themselves. To continue to wait for certainty and meaning, knowing they don't exist, is absurd. Absurdism, in literature and drama, is usually presented in this way: humans searching for meaning in a world where meaning is either always elusive or nonexistent. 


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