Who is Godot in the play Waiting for Godot?

In the play, Estragon and Vladimir await for the arrival of a mysterious character named Godot. However, Godot never arrives. Therefore, the audience never actually learns who Godot truly is.

Expert Answers

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

We never find out much about Godot; precisely who or what he is remains something of a mystery throughout Beckett's landmark absurdist play. What's more, he never makes an appearance on stage, which only serves to heighten the mystery further.

Yet a number of literary critics and scholars have, over the years, ventured to suggest that Godot represents God, whose name forms the basis of his own. Godot is absent from stage, waited for by the play's characters, in much the same way that God appears to be absent from a dark, absurd, and meaningless world.

Beckett wrote his play at a time when existentialism was a popular pastime among a certain section of the European intelligentsia, and the variant of existentialism to which they adhered was thoroughly steeped in atheism, pervaded by a sense that there was no God and that individuals had to create their own meaning in a Godless universe.

To a considerable extent, that is what Vladimir and Estragon try to do in Beckett's play while they're waiting for a God(ot), who never shows up. Their failure to do so can be seen as a warning of just how difficult it can be for humans to endow the world around them with meaning and significance in the absence of the divine.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 8, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Beckett's popular absurdist play Waiting for Godot, the titular character never appears and remains a mystery throughout the entire play. The main protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for Godot to arrive, and the act of waiting itself is a choice they make consciously or maybe even unconsciously.

Even though they are constantly informed by Godot's young messenger that Godot will not be arriving, they still decide to wait for him, and this is where the absurd lies. Their waiting actually symbolizes the quest for happiness and fulfillment—the people are wasting their time trying to achieve their hopes and dreams, waiting for something good to happen to them, not realizing that there's actually no real meaning to life. Godot is the metaphorical representation of this lack of meaning, hence why he never actually arrives.

According to some critics and analysts, as well as readers, Godot might also be God, or rather Beckett's interpretation of God; many believe that the name "GODot" and some of the descriptions and religious analogies used to characterize Godot prove this theory. For instance, Vladimir and Estragon are not actively searching for Godot, they're waiting for him to arrive, similar to how Christians await the arrival of the Messiah. Didi and Gogo are waiting for Godot in the hopes that he will save them and they're even worried that he might punish them if they stop waiting for him. Godot is also described as a kind man with a white beard, which is similar to how God is presented in the Bible:

VLADIMIR: Has he a beard, Mr. Godot?

BOY: Yes Sir.

VLADIMIR: Fair or... or black?

BOY: I think it's white, Sir.

One can't help but notice, however, Beckett's pessimistic nature when it comes to describing Godot and the meaninglessness of life, who through the character of Godot implies that this long-awaited "savior" might never come to aid the people and deliver them from evil and suffering and ultimately save their souls.

It is also notable to consider the possibility that Godot hasn't arrived yet simply because he is already there—he's nowhere, and he's everywhere at the same time. Perhaps Godot is all of the characters together, who fail to realize that they are the only ones who can actually determine their path and create their own fate—that they're simply waiting for themselves to take action and make a change in their lives.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 8, 2021
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the play Waiting for Godot, the central characters, Estragon and Vladimir, wait for a character named Godot, who never arrives. Godot is therefore a projection of the characters' unrealized and at times vague hopes and dreams. While the characters often refer to waiting for Godot, they cannot recall where they are supposed to meet him (other than knowing in a vague sense that it's by a tree). At times they consider ending their lives but then decide to continue to wait for Godot, though they cannot really determine the benefits or rewards of doing so. Godot represents their vague sense that their lives will eventually have promise or some type of meaning or conclusion, though it's unclear when this promise or conclusion will arrive, if ever. Godot constantly promises to arrive but never actually does so. The vagueness of Godot is one of the absurdist elements of the play and represents the idea that the meaning of life is unclear and perhaps nonexistent.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Though it might not have been the intent of the question, this precise issue marks the purpose of not only the play but of all existence.  The character of Godot marks the driving force of the Vladimir and Estragon because it is for whom they are waiting.  Essentially, the purpose of both characters, the reason why they are there, is to eagerly await the arrival or mere presence of Godot.  Beckett denies that Godot is "God."  Of the many contradictions and complexities that Beckett represented, it would be too simple to presume that the character of Godot would be the higher force.  However, one can make the argument that Godot represents anything for which we are waiting.  Any external force that we believe will answer our queries, stop the pain of modern insecurity, and provide the Sartrean "bad faith" answer of totality can be seen as "Godot."  Both characters believe that Godot will provide the answers, and that this faith in absolutism can be what the character is meant to represent.  It can be a religious force, a material object, a state of being in the world, or anything that is perceived to alleviate the difficulty of living in the modern setting.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

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