Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty Essay
Samuel Beckett is known to be among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Beckett’s comedic and tragic outlook on human nature was represented in his works’, and for that, he has given his readers reason to call them masterpieces. Waiting For Godot is one of his most well-known plays, famous for its odd humor and cryptic plot. Literary uncertainty was first brought to the stage with Waiting for Godot, and this element made it harder for audience members to follow the story. For some viewers, the confusion only made them want to understand more, making the play more enticing.
This play is a perfect example of Beckett’s famous abstract style of writing, which involves the use of binary oppositions. Of the several couplings in Waiting For Godot, the relationship between certainty and uncertainty is the most pertinent. The characters become so obsessed with discovering anything unambiguous, it consumes them. Throughout the play, the amount of uncertainty expressed by the characters intensifies so significantly, one would question if anything out of the eighty five pages is definite. After a close analysis of the dialogue, themes, and the plot, it is evident that the only thing certain is the promise of uncertainty.
Beckett’s abstract writing style is far from conventional, and even farther from mediocre. The name of the play is just the beginning of seemingly endless confusion, entwined with hidden intention. The title, Waiting For Godot, does hold a certain significance to the play, and that is with one word, waiting. The full title certainly implies that the story is mostly likely going to revolve around the arrival, or absence of Godot. The presence, or lack there of, of Godot is definitely a noticeable interference in the lives of the characters, but that is just an obvious observation.
The simple action of waiting for someone named Godot will prove to be irrelevant, because no one really knows if that person even exists. If the play involves a substantial amount of waiting, but not for Godot, what are the characters waiting for? The philosophical viewpoints expressed by Beckett are important attributes to the ongoing presence of uncertainty in Waiting For Godot. Though mysterious from a first glance, there are subtle comparisons between the characters, religious figures and humanity in general. Uncertainty ties into Beckett’s portrayal of existentialism in reality, which is uniquely expressed hroughout the play. The concept of validating ones self is the underlying focus of the opposition. In the world of Waiting for Godot, the mere question of truth requires humanity to grasp anything within their reach to validate it. Beckett chose specific dialogue, events, and the setting to bring his perception of existentialism to life. The constant decline of clarity, especially pertaining to being, makes Vladimir and Estragon even more desperate for certainty, which gives structure to the entire play. Vladimir and Estragon are complicated representations of Beckett’s interpretation of humanity.
The exact time and location of the supposed meeting is unknown, along with evidence proving that Godot is, in fact, a person with plans to meet them. The chance of Godot’s arrival, however, gives them hope. It is clear that Vladimir and Estragon are trying to be optimistic, even when they are not even sure of the name of the person they are meeting: Estragon: His name is Godot? Vladimir: I think so. (Beckett 1. 13) The characters believe that the reason they are in their present surroundings is because of Godot, but following events give reason to think otherwise.
Vladimir and Estragon are convinced that once they meet Godot, they will be “saved. ” They are so hopeful for Godot’s arrival, they choose not to confront the possibility that he won’t show up. While Gogo and Didi find ways to pass the time, subconsciously they look for any sort of clarity in their situation, and their entire existence. The two characters eventually find temporary entertainment with the arrival of Pozzo and Lucky; two men they believe to be strangers. Interaction with people outside their unidentified locaton gives them a small amount of reassurance, but is quickly lost when Pozzo and Lucky leave.
With the departure of the two gentlemen, also went the memory of meeting them. The next day, when Pozzo and Lucky arrive again, neither they nor Vladimir and Estragon are sure of previous communication between each other: Pozzo: I used to have wonderful sight – but are you friends? Estragon: [laughing noisily] He wants to know if we are friends! Vladimir: No, he means friends of his. Estragon: Well? (Beckett 2. 75) The fact that nobody can say they truly remember their interaction the previous day provides no help to the characters’ need of stability. Their progress is stagnant, which is a blatant result of their decreasing confidence.
Vladimir starts to catch on to his uncertainty when he sees the boy, supposedly sent by Godot, again. The boy diminished the small potential for absolution when he claims to be meeting him for the first time: Vladimir: You’re sure you saw me, you won’t come and tell me tomorrow that you never saw me! (Beckett 2. 83) Instead of confirming Vladimir’s statement, the boy avoids him all together and runs away. Unfortunately, because the boy did not give Vladimir anything concrete, he does not pursue the thought. Gogo and Didi endure an endless series of meaningless repetition of events and conversations that lead no where.
The same situations they face everyday offer no self-sufficiency, but because they do not know what the future holds, they continue to believe that something better will come along. Instead of hanging themselves, or simply leaving, Vladimir and Estragon choose to wait another day for Godot. Waiting for clarity that may never come is all they have. The hopeless anticipation for their “savior,” constitutes their entire existence. Waiting For Godot portrays the allusion that Vladimir and Estragon are enduring a constant cycle of unimportant happenings and meaningless banter, just to meet with their acquaintance.
Beckett’s almost incomprehensible writing style forces the reader to distinguish the difference between the disclosed text, and the intentionally concealed connotation. Waiting For Godot is essentially a speculation on the way in which humans today choose to live. The concept of waiting as an action was not necessarily the issue Beckett was trying to bring to light, but the observation that humanity will waste life on any sort of affirmation. The repetition throughout the story and the persistence from the characters to possibly find something better was all part of an uncertain, ongoing process.
Time wasted waiting for indefinite prospects, loses its substance. Living a life trying to find absolution without any understanding will have consequences. A consistent lifestyle where the only thing certain is uncertainty is the unfortunate conclusion to that kind of reasoning: Vladimir: [without anger] It’s not certain. Estragon: No, nothing is certain. (Beckett 2. 44)
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting For Godot. New York: Grove Press, 1994. Print. Bullock, Richard. Goggin, Maureen Daly. Weinberg, Francine. The Norton Field Guide To Writing. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.