Waiting for Godot Questions and Answers
by Samuel Beckett

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What methods or literary techniques did Samuel Beckett use in Waiting for Godot?

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Because Beckett was more interested in the stage as a presentation of a philosophical position rather than as “literature,” his techniques are more theatrical than literary—that is, he uses stage language (proxemics, imitation of an action, mimesis) rather than such tools as syntax, metaphor, or rhythm (although manuscript genetics reveal that he was very careful about the rhythm of dialogue).  Some historical references, notably the vaudeville echoes such as the hat-juggling routine, may be considered “technique.”  Having said that, however, it is important to note that the entire play is a metaphor for Man’s existential dilemma—anguish, forlornness, and despair.  The characters’ condition is like our own—no purpose, no direction, no meaning, waiting for instruction or project.  Beckett once said “No symbol where none intended,” but this play is a deliberate staging of the metaphor of Man’s existence.  Structurally the play is a pairing and bifurcation—not only the two pairs (Gogo and Didi, and Pozzo and Lucky), but the head/feet references, carrots/turnips, even the two messenger boys.  In fact, the two-act play structure itself was an innovation during this time in stage history.  This literary (and theatrical) technique is sometimes called polarization—a way of underlining distinct features of a character.  As for linguistic methods, the characters avoid distinct referents to the real world (see deictic linguistics), and use the sparse physical landscape as s sort of mental mise-en-scene, where the distinction between physical reality and imaginary landscapes is blurred.  Finally, Lucky's "thinking" speech is a deliberate mimesis of the inability of language to clarify existential questions.

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