What is the importance of society in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The function of society in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is an interesting inquiry, as it exists on the peripheries of the relatively small and intimate cast of characters. However, it's possible to draw a few conclusions about the role of society in the play, one of which is that Beckett envisions society in Godot as a power structure relying on hierarchies of privilege and poverty. 

For one thing, the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are tramps waiting (for some unspecified reason) for a fellow named "Godot." We never find out who Godot is, but we can guess that he's someone important, someone with enough power to command respect and allegiance. It's possible therefore to view Godot as a member of the social elite, someone who presumably possesses social influence and probably wealth. Likewise, the other significant relationship in the play also involves power: Pozzo, a wealthy landowner, is master of a slave named Lucky. Pozzo exercises complete control over his servant and treats Lucky like an animal. As such, we can see that the main relationships of the play rely upon structures of power, especially upon structures of power that resemble the relationship between power and poverty in a classic, modern, capitalist society. 

There is, however, a turn of events that makes this relationship more interesting: at the end of the play, Lucky leads Pozzo, who is now blind. As such, it's possible to assume that Lucky has become the master, and so has inverted the classic dynamic between the wealthy and the impoverished. This turn of events potentially subverts classic societal structures of power, although it's not a perfect subversion, as both Vladimir and Estragon are still waiting for Godot at the end. In that sense, at least, it appears as though classic capitalist society has prevailed. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial