The Stranger and Waiting for Godot: Similarities and Differences
“The Stranger” written by Albert Camus is a story revolving around Monsieur Meursault, an indifferent man with a peculiar way of viewing life. “Waiting for Godot” written by Samuel Beckett is a play revolving around two characters, Vladimir and Estragon. Like “The Stranger”, these two characters are unordinary, living life in an abnormal way. This essay will be exploring how these books intertwine with each other through the similarities they share; however, they also contrast from each other due to their differences. The first similarity that these two books share is their fearlessness towards the concept of death. “ESTRAGON: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!” (Beckett, 9). This quote appears in the conversation while the two main characters are waiting for Godot. From this quote, it is clear that Vladimir and Estragon view death very lightly.
If it was possible, they would kill themselves without hesitation. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” (Camus, 3). This quote from “The Stranger” appears after Meursault receives a telegram about his mother’s death. This quote indicates that Meursault does not think too heavily about his mother’s death as he does not clearly remember when his mother died. In addition, the way he talks about her with a monotone voice shows that he expresses no emotion. Although his mother died, he does not show any grief towards her passing. The second similarity that I will introduce is that the major characters in both pieces of literature have no meaning in life. Although Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot, their life can be interpreted as meaningless as they just wait for Godot, doing nothing else with their lives.
They cannot leave the tree anytime soon. Days pass as they wait for someone who never appears. They are repeating the same exact routines every day without a single change from the previous day. Similarly, Meursault also does not convey meaning in life. “I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all.” (Camus, 41). From this quote, it is clear that he believes that one life is just as good as another since he believes that life does not have a logical meaning to it. Therefore, he does not try to do things to make his life more special or make it different from others. He does not have a clear goal in life. The only thing he defines as being inevitable in life is death. None of the major characters have any uniqueness in their life, living very plainly and simply. The final similarity that I will be introducing is that both pieces of literature show ways of passing time. They both consider life as meaningless.
The major characters do not have a clear goal in life. However, they both have their own ways of passing time. “After lunch I was a little bored and I wandered around the apartment…A little later, just for something to do, I picked up an old newspaper and read it.” (Camus, 21). From this quote, it is clear that Meursault has his own ways of killing time. Furthermore, besides reading newspapers, he passes his time by having a sexual relationship with Marie, smoking, and drinking with Raymond. Similarly, in “Waiting for Godot”, Vladimir and Estragon pass their time by calling each other names. Their conversations consist of sudden random bursts of information. They even played a game where they would call each other names. “ESTRAGON: Let’s hang ourselves immediately!” (Beckett, 9).
In addition, to pass time Estragon suggests hanging themselves, signifying that they are willing to do anything to pass the time. The first difference that will be explored is the way the characters in the two books express their emotions. Meursault barely expresses himself, disliking social interactions. “And when I woke up, I was slumped against a soldier who smiled at me and asked if I’d been traveling long. I said “Yes,” just so I wouldn’t have to say anything else.” (Camus, 4). From this quote, it is clear that he minimizes his responses to others in order to keep his thoughts to himself. On the other hand, the two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are full of emotion, interacting with each other by expressing their feelings to each other. “ESTRAGON I had a dream. VLADIMIR Don’t tell me! ESTRAGON I dreamt that – VLADIMRIR DON’T TELL ME!” (Beckett, 8). This quote shows that they use strong ways of expressing their emotions for further communication.
Meursault isolates himself, while Vladimir and Estragon live through each other’s existence. The second difference I will be introducing is each of the main characters’ desire towards God. In “Waiting for Godot”, Godot represents God. Vladimir and Estragon continue to wait for him, although he does not seem to appear. “ESTRAGON Let’s go. VLADIMIR We can’t. ESTRAGON Why not? VLADIMIR We’re waiting for Godot.” (Beckett, 6). From this quote, it is clear that although Estragon is willing to leave, Vladimir always stops him. As time had passed, waiting for Godot became a mandatory task for Vladimir and Estragon. No matter whether he will arrive soon or not, they kept on worshiping and respecting him. On the other hand, although the Chaplain tells Meursault to turn to God before his death sentence, he rejects what he says. He concludes that life is meaningless, and in every life, death is inevitable. It does not matter whether he believes in God or not as death is unavoidable. By not believing in God, he was able to define his own meaning in life.
The final difference between these two books is the concept of time. In “Waiting for Godot”, time is non-linear as the structure of time is not clear in the play. In addition, all of the events that occur are repetitive. “VLADIMIR I’ve seen you before, haven’t I? BOY I don’t know, Sir. VLADIMIR You don’t know me? BOY No Sir. VLADIMIR It wasn’t you came yesterday? BOY No Sir.” (Beckett, 41). From this quote, it is clear that some characters in the play have more memory than the others on previous days. Vladimir remembers the boy; however, the boy does not remember meeting Vladimir and Estragon. The same day is being repeated over and over, and time is an unknown factor in this book. In “The Stranger”, time is linear throughout the book. Time passes exactly like how time passes in our world. Meursault wakes up in the morning, and he sleeps at night.
Each day for Meursault is different from the day before. In conclusion, both of these books convey messages that are not easy to figure out, but rather hidden under the words and emotions of the characters. These two books completely pulled me in, making me wonder what was going to happen at the end. “The Stranger” especially opened my eyes in terms of a whole new concept of life and death. For Meursault, life was the question, and death was his answer. As he had said, “As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gently indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself-so like a brother, really-I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” (Camus, 122-123).
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