Is the theme of 'social awareness' a crucial element to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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If you conduct a close reading and an in-depth analysis of the absurdist play Waiting for Godot you will be surprised to find a lot of elements of social awareness in the play which may not necessarily encompass the plot (the style of this particular genre rejects the traditional plot), but certainly colors the atmosphere of the play in a big way.

First, we notice that the characters come in a dyad. Vladimir and Estragon seem to be quite co-dependent and their lives make sense only because they are together. Their meaning of life, again, does not appear in the traditional sense of the theatrical manner in which topics are conveyed. However, one wonders what would happen if Vladimir, who truly seems to defend and protect Estragon, were without his friend. Moreover, the fact that Vladimir cares about Estragon despite living in a world with no true meaning denotes a very high form of social awareness, indeed.

Then we have Lucky and Pozzo, who make up a "master and servant" relationship. The theme of social awareness is quiteevident in their odd connection in that we see the careless abuse of Pozzo to Lucky, and the reaction that this abuse causes on a very angry Vladimir. This is significant in an absurdist play that aims to teach no moral nor send any specific message. The fact that there is injustice in the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky, and that this injustice is rampant and visible is indeed a sign of social awareness from the part of Didi and Estragon.

This makes us wonder: Would the appearance of Godot make a difference in the social affiliations of the play? Is the play trying to show us a lesson in social awareness by depicting one abusive versus one protective relationship? Is Godot the savior that will equalize injustice?

Those questions may propose themselves as we see the situation with Pozzo and Lucky so obviously portrayed as abusive. Therefore, it would be safe to say that, although the theme of social awareness may not be the ultimate theme in the play, it certainly permeates it in the reactions of the characters.

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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I don't think that social awareness is a major theme of Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot. The play seems to address existential question, in a abstract setting, far removed from a particular social problematics. The characters are not embedded in time and place, or in a communal or economic matrix.

The play does address individual relationships, with Pozzo and Lucky highlighting issue of power and interdependence and Vladamir and Estragon exemplifying how friendship can be a bulwark against an otherwise bleak world. The Godot who never arrives can be seen as either a theological figure or some other ultimately stabilizing enter or authority.

Thus there are relationships between people, which is in one way social, but it's not a play of social awareness as would be the work of Brecht or Shaw.

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