Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waiting for Godot: Hope for Salvation



One of the approaches to "Waiting for Godot" is to regard it as a religious play because there are ample references to God, Christ and hope of salvation. The two tramps are waiting for Godot who is variously interpreted by the critics. Some critics opine that it is a religious drama and the tramps are waiting for salvation. They hope that one day Godot will come and they will be 'saved'. But this period of waiting is full of sufferings and torments. Man wants to escape from these sufferings and the only rescue which he finds in the panorama of this world is the hope of salvation.


The play "Waiting for Godot" has a universal appeal. The tramps represent all humanity. Their sufferings are the sufferings of all human being, no matter in which country they live in or what religious beliefs they have. They reflect modern man's loneliness, absurdity, forgetfulness, illusions, deferred hope, meaninglessness, inaction, physical suffering and mental anguish, death-wish and isolation.


Estragon and Vladimir are the diseased inhabitants of this new wasteland. They suffer from inward and outward ailments. The only remedy from all these afflictions is in the shape of Godot.


But problem is that salvation is also not certain. The uncertainty of the hope of salvation and the chance bestowed of divine grace pervade the whole play. Vladimir states it right in the beginning when he says:

"One of the thieves was saved. It's a remarkable percentage."

He furthers remarks that one of the two thieves is supposed to have been saved and the other damned. But he asks why only one of the four evangelists speaks of a thief being saved. Whereas, other three do not mention any thieve at all, and third one says that both of them abused Christ. In other words, there is fifty-fifty chance of salvation, but as only one out of four witnesses reports it, the chances are considerably reduced. As Vladimir points out the fact that everybody seems to believe that one witness:

"It is the only version they know."

Estragon, whose attitude has been skeptic throughout merely comments:

"People are bloody ignorant apes."

It means that tramps know that salvation is only an illusion to get relief from the sufferings, only an evasion. They know that their waiting for Godot is only a hope against hope. Even through religious point of vies the salvation is not certain. It is a matter of 'may be or may not be'. Beckett himself referred in the writings of St. Augustine:

"Do not despair: one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume: one of the thieves was damned."

Even Godot himself is unpredictable in bestowing kindness and punishment. The boy who is his messenger looks after the goats, is treated well by Godot. But the boy's brother, who looks after the sheep, is beaten by Godot. The parallel to Cain and Abel is evident. If Godot's kindness is bestowed as a matter of chance, his coming is not a source of pure joy. It can also mean damnation.


When in act-II Pozzo and Lucky return and two tramps try to identify them, Estragon calls out:

"Abel! Abel!"

Pozzo responds. But when Estragon calls out:

"Cain! Cain!"

Pozzo responds again and Estragon concludes:

"He is all humanity".

But in spite of this pessimism which shows the helplessness of humanity, it might be argued that two tramps who are waiting for Godot, are somewhat superior to Pozzo and Lucky who have no object, no appointment, and are wholly egocentric and wrapped in their sadomasochistic relationship. Estragon and Vladimir are superior to both Pozzo and Lucky – not because na├»ve. They are aware that all we do in this life is as nothing, when seen against the senseless action of time, which is in itself an illusion. They are aware that suicide would be the best solution to get rid of sufferings. They are less self-centered. For a brief moment, Vladimir is aware of the full horror of the human condition:

"The air is full of our cries … At me too someone is looking …"

But the habit of waiting prevents them from the awareness of the full reality of their existence.


To conclude we can say that the hope for salvation may be an evasion of the suffering and anguish that spring from facing the reality of the human condition. But even then this illusion is necessary to keep one on the right path. As Ibsen in this play "The Wild Duck" also says that illusions are necessary for life. When you take away illusions from one you take away his life. Hope for salvation may be an illusion of life but this is necessary when you have no other way because the wretchedness of modern man can only be overcome by re-establishing faith.

"There is shadow under this red rock com in under the shadow of the red rock."

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