Why is it necessary to have an understanding of modernism to appreciate Waiting for Godot?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the question probably needs to be broadened to include "post- modernism," as well.  In the end, Beckett's work is a modernist/ post-modernist work because of its most basic assertion.  The idea of these characters waiting for a dinner guest who is presumably never to arrive is a symbol for where all human beings lie.  Beckett does not depict a redemptive picture of human beings, or one where there is totality present in its final answers, or one where individuals come to some massive self- realization located in the realm of the subjective.  For Beckett, there is a belief in what Woolf said in that "All human relations have shifted."  This is where the Modern elements are located in the work.  Individuals in the modern setting are ones who "wait" for the answer, whatever the answer is.  The fundamental precept of the Modern era is an embrace of the idea that there is little in way of transcendent, unifying principles that can automatically provide meaning to individuals.  Rather, individuals are set amidst a setting where meaning is obscured and challenging.  The Modern setting is one where individuals have to identify for themselves what defines consciousness and being in the world and in this, Beckett's work speaks loud and clear.