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Theme of Interdependency in Waiting for Godot

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In Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, Waiting for Godot, written in 1949, through the individual characterisations and the portrayal of the relationship between Vladimir and Estragon, Beckett provides insight into the human condition through an emphasis on the interdependency present within relationships and its subsequent effects on individuals. During the period of time following World War II, in which society was recovering following the devastation caused by the war, individuals found that suffering was a constant, with hope being a futile concept. In fact, such individuals realised that free will lacked importance and began to lose their autonomy, using others to provide the moral support that would have once been their own responsibility, and thus, became dependent on others in lieu of possessing any individuality. Thus, Beckett subverts the existential perceptions which are associated with humanity’s free will, such that individuals are unable to remain independent from others. Beckett’s characterisation of Vladimir and Estragon, and the portrayal of their interactions convey such interdependent tendencies, having profound impacts upon the characters’ actions. This essay will examine Vladimir’s superior characterisation in contrast to his dependency on Estragon, Estragon’s inept, inferior characterisation as a result of Vladimir’s constraint, and their combined inability to progress due to the interdependency permeating their relationship.

Beckett’s superior characterisation of Vladimir is ironically falsified by his need for Estragon’s dependence unto him. Reflecting the society in which Beckett wrote, the pair exist in an environment where suffering is presented as the norm and a constant state of being. In spite of this, Vladimir acts as the ‘optimist’ while representing the intellectual side of the relationship, elevating himself above the mentally inept Estragon as to influence his behaviour. This is seen when Estragon asks him to “Tell [him] what to do. / There’s nothing to do.” The futile connotations of “nothing” coupled with Vladimir’s didactic tone in contrast to the hopeful tone employed by Estragon revealing Vladimir’s self-conceived sense of superiority, while establishing Estragon’s dependence onto him. In fact, as a means to maintain this superiority, Vladimir insists upon Estragon’s dependence for himself, as he reflects: “When I think of it… all these years… but for me… where would you be… Decisively. You’d be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.” The degrading connotations of “little heap of bones” in conjunction with the definite tone used in the stage direction, “Decisively”, reveals Vladimir’s pitiful view of Estragon. This insistence on Estragon’s need for him directly contrasts the existential notion that individuals are unable to impose existential meaning upon others. However, Vladimir’s ironic inability to separate himself from his ‘inferior’ counterpart provides further insight into his characterisation. This is alluded to, in the beginning of the play, as Vladimir states: “I’m glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever”. The relieved connotation of “glad” conveys a mutual need and interdependency between the two characters, although it is outshone by Vladimir’s superior characterisation and his inability to express these needs. His inner conflict for such expression is further explored as Estragon complains that he “…was asleep! Despairingly. Why will you never let me sleep? / I felt lonely.” Vladimir’s flat, emotionless tone, coupled with the truncated sentence, is contrasted to the despondent connotations of the stage direction “Despairingly”. This emphasises the notion that despite Vladimir’s desire for Estragon’s dependence, the fact that he is unable to convey this in a meaningful manner undermines his self-imposed sense of superiority. In essence, he relies upon Estragon to depend on him, cementing the notion of interdependence within the relationship. Thus, despite the sense of superiority that Vladimir holds over Estragon, it is falsified by his inherent need for interdependence within their relationship.

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In direct contrast, Beckett characterises Estragon as the lesser, helpless character who struggles with independency, catalysed by Vladimir’s disdain and constraint. Mirroring the disillusionment from autonomy and a disregard for hope which had permeated within Beckett’s society as a result of the aftermath following World War II, Estragon acts as Beckett’s vessel through which he portrays his personal thoughts concerning this notion. While Vladimir acts as the “intellectual”of the pair, with the majority of his personal issues affecting his mentality, Estragon is instead focused on the physical aspects of his unchanging environment, with his afflictions instead affecting his emotions and physicality. However, due to this ineptitude, Estragon is portrayed as the less capable character, with this portrayal being amplified by Vladimir’s imposed constraint. This is established in the dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon: “… then the day after tomorrow… And so on… / You’re merciless. / We came here yesterday.” The contrast between Vladimir’s use of the exclusive pronoun “you’re” in conjunction with his blunt tone and the inclusive pronoun “we” creates a clear divide between the pair, while emphasising Vladimir’s dismissive and callous nature towards Estragon, thus establishing this imposed inferiority. Despite this, Estragon is momentarily able to put his inner conflict with his autonomy at ease, coming to a revelation that his existential purpose of waiting for Godot, and in turn, his need for Vladimir’s companionship, was naught, as he states: “Feebly. We’re not tied? Pause. We’re not—”. The anaphora of “We’re not” in conjunction with the stupefied tone created by the stage direction and hyphenation emphasises the extent to which their collective need to wait for Godot dictates Estragon’s inability to comprehend his own autonomy. Due to this, Estragon has a momentary revelation that he is, in fact, capable of independency. Despite this epiphany, Estragon almost immediately returns to a state dependency, complaining: “Violently. I’m hungry! / Do you want a carrot? / … / Give me a carrot.” The forceful tone created by the stage direction “Violently” coupled with the truncated sentences highlights the immediacy of his reversion, suggesting that his conditioning to his dependency has subconsciously led him to disregard the notion that they are “not tied”. Thus, reflecting the society in which Beckett writes, Estragon’s dependent characterisation acts as a commentary which emphasises the importance which should be placed on

Through Vladimir and Estragon’s interactions with one another, Beckett explores the subsequent effects of the pair’s interdependent relationship on their actions, as it creates an inability to attain dependency. Writing in a society where individuals had fallen into a state of hopelessness following the widespread horrors of war, Beckett’s portrayal of Vladimir and Estragon reflects his perspective that such individuals had become more dependent in lieu of being concerned about their individuality. In fact, while Beckett characterises these two characters as two halves of a human being, creating a complementary relationship, their interdependence ironically results in an inability to progress or develop their identities.. This dual inability is first explored as Estragon laments that he is “…tired! Pause. Let’s go. / We can’t. / Why not? / We’re waiting for Godot.” The truncated sentence coupled with an urgent tone creates fast-paced dialogue which is directly contrasted to the stage direction: “Pause.” This indicates a moment of reflection which overshadows Estragon’s futile attempts to progress the conversation, contrasted by the repetition of this dialogue throughout the text, which inevitably draws both characters back into their routine as a result of Estragon’s conditioning as dependent on Vladimir. However, Estragon later re-attempts to bring progress to their relationship by questioning his state of dependency once more: “(Coldly.) There are times when I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for us to part. / You wouldn’t go far.” Vladimir’s dismissive, blunt tone and truncated sentence suggests that the pair’s progress from interdependency is hindered by their inability to have meaningful communication. This is emphasised as this same interaction is repeated further along, as Estragon states that “It’d be better if we parted. / You always say that and you always come crawling back.” Vladimir’s matter-of-fact, condescending tone, in conjunction with the definite connotation of “always” reveals his disdain for Estragon’s desires, which is combined with the contrast between Estragon’s inclusive pronoun “we” and Vladimir’s exclusive pronoun “you” to further emphasise this clash between their contrasting, yet complementary characterisations. This highlights the notion that Vladimir’s need for Estragon’s reliance is preventing either of their lives from progressing any further. Therefore, due to the inherent interdependency within their relationship, Vladimir and Estragon both possess an inability to progress, with neither their dialogue nor their characterisations seeming to develop past the point on which they began.

Through Waiting for Godot, Beckett conveys his concerns in regard to his societal and historical contexts, extending from his exploration of the human condition, reflected through the portrayal of the interdependent relationship between Vladimir and Estragon. By exploring how this interdependency has impacted the actions of both characters as a result of their destructive interdependence, Beckett has provided a commentary on how humanity requires their own autonomy and individuality in order to withhold their own life purpose, aligning with his existentialist beliefs. Therefore, through the individual characterisations and the portrayal of the relationship between Vladimir and Estragon, Beckett has provided insight into the human condition by emphasising the impact that interdependency has on individuals.

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Theme of Interdependency in Waiting for Godot. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Theme of Interdependency in Waiting for Godot.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Theme of Interdependency in Waiting for Godot. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Sept. 2023].
Theme of Interdependency in Waiting for Godot [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Sept 24]. Available from:
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