Human life is ultimately purposeless, to cope with this confrontation, we employ an array of distractions, in futile attempts to dispute this harsh truth. The Theatre of the Absurd emerged after World War II and found artists struggling to find meaning amongst man’s self-induced devastation (TED-Ed, 2018). “Waiting For Godot” (1955) is a grim tableau, enshrined as a turning point in the Theatre of the Absurd. Samuel Beckett’s tragi-comedy had the most strikingly profound impact on theatrical productions, commencing the trend widely renowned as the “theater of the absurd”. The fragmented plot follows the meaningless characters, Vladimir and Estragon, in a setting where nothing happens, it evaluates humankind who, helplessly, in each segment of life, await a new Godot. Human beings, like Vladimir and Estragon, are searching for the meaning of life repetitiously and without purpose, always trying to find somebody or something to bring purpose to our lives. The vague and omnipotent figure, Godot, is open to speculative and interpretation, however, ‘Godot’ suggests the Irish translation of “go-deo” which equates to “forever”. Vladimir and Estragon, alike humans, endure strenuous and prolonged periods of ‘waiting forever’. Absurdist Theatre often confronts the paradoxical desire for seeking meaning in a meaningless existence, Beckett utilises this convention in “Waiting For Godot” where the humane compulsion to find meaning where no meaning exists overrides characters’ harmony. Beckett employs illogical plot structure; purposeless characters and; combined realistic and non-realistic movement, common Absurdist Theatre conventions, to address the humane problems such as purposelessness, and confront the importance of human connection in “Waiting For Godot”. Through the effective use of Absurdist conventions, Beckett encourages the audience to critically analyse life itself and how precious human connection is, in such a pointless universe, we must create our own meaning.
The Theatre of the Absurd, although initially appearing unpredictable and incomprehensible, beckons audiences, because alike human existence, absurdist theatre plots are illogical and unstructured. Absurdity breaks the shackles of predetermined concepts, which have resulted in complacency in a perfectly ordered and rational universe (Hooti, 2011). Absurdist theatre revolts against accepted stage conventions, where plot and structure appear illogical and irrational, in surreal worlds with enigmatic characters. “Waiting For Godot” presents Vladimir and Estragon reciprocating feelings of dependency on each other, while they await the mysterious ‘Godot’. Beckett analyses the pointlessness of existence but denotes the importance of human connection, without Vladimir, Estragon would be “a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.” (pg. 9). Philosopher Camus (1942), declared, “the divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.”. However, “Waiting For Godot” exhibits this ‘divorce’, from which feelings of isolation and loneliness incur, can be counteracted with human interaction, and thus, human connection. Ultimately humankind is alone in a meaningless world, but, in a senseless world, we have each other (Esslin, 1960). At a time when Vladimir and Estragon consider hanging themselves, Estragon refuses to be the first to hang himself because he is afraid his weight will break the branch and Vladimir would be left alone (Shams, 2012). Humans, absurd by nature and stuck in a meaningless existence struggle to communicate or express their existential despair, and human connection provides solace. In spite of the absurdity of human existence itself, Beckett displays that affection and connection are innately craved, to uphold sanity.
“Waiting For Godot” is distinctly empty of purpose and characterisation, common conventions of Absurdist Theatre. The Theatre of the Absurd employs a loss of purpose and originality of thought, where characters are insignificant and the dialogue is obscure and unconventional. Beckett incorporates cryptic dialogue and circular reasoning where characters are locked in an existential conundrum, Estragon: “Well, shall we go?” Vladimir: “Yes, let’s go.” (They did not move).” (pg. 94). It’s a vexing cycle, the two debate when Godot will come, why they’re waiting and whether they’re even at the right tree. Absurdist Theatre is bleak but perversely humane, Ionesco (1957) defines, “absurd is that which has no purpose, or goal, or objective.”. This is evident throughout “Waiting For Godot”, Beckett employs caricatures of Absurdist Theatre; characters have inconsequential dialogue, lack of conceptual rationalisation, devoid of logical motivation where there is no obvious or convention sense. Every time Estragon suggests: “Let’s go”, Vladimir reminds him that they cannot go, they are waiting for Godot. Although the acting and characterisation are devoid of purpose, the co-dependency of the pairing is significant and intentional. The co-dependant nature of their platonic relationship suggests meaning, “It is not every day we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed.” (pg. 79). Beckett delves into the minds of human beings, their relationships, the sufferings they go through, therefore, the absurdity of life itself (Shams, 2012). “Waiting For Godot” introduces hope in a strange form, romantic and platonic companionship, to induce meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence.
Beckett reminds us, much like our daily lives, the world onstage doesn’t always make sense, “Waiting For Godot” explores both reality and illusion, the familiar and the strange. Although a loose narrative appears, the theatre of the absurd keeps the audience in suspense by maintaining an elusive. Absurdist Theatre employs a combination of realistic and nonrealistic conventions where the audience can relate to sections, and yet, completely disregard others. French playwright Apollinaire (1960) declared, “theatre should not be an imitation of reality” (Esslin, 1960). The audience must relate on some level, for it is the core purpose of art and theatrical productions, however, theatre is not a mere imitation of surface-level reality, it has theatre should not be an imitation of reality are more insightful than reality (Esslin, 1960). Human beings are inherently indolent, Beckett makes a distinct connection between the audience and the characters on stage through this cardinal sin, Estragon: “Don’t let’s do anything, it’s safer”, Vladimir: “Let’s wait and see what he says” (pg. 18). However, other parts of the play are unrealistic wherein Beckett (1955) states, the only thing he, and the audience for that matter, can be sure about is that, “Vladimir and Estragon are wearing bowler hats.”. The prevalent word in “Waiting For Godot” is, “perhaps”, and the idea itself is repetitive: perhaps they will wait, perhaps they will leave, perhaps they will live, perhaps they will die? The only usage of communication is just to prove their existence, Estragon states, “We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist.” (p. 14). The dialogue presents a realistic component to an otherwise indistinguishable piece, spectators can latch onto familiar terminology and relate to Vladimir and Estragon in that sense.
“Waiting For Godot” shows the world as an incomprehensible place. The spectators see the happenings on the stage entirely from the outside, without ever understanding the full meaning of these strange patterns of events. The spectators of the Theatre of the Absurd are thus confronted with a grotesquely heightened picture of their own world: a world without faith, meaning and, genuine free will. In this sense, the Theatre of the Absurd is the true theatre of our time (Esslin, 1980). The play begins with waiting for Godot and ends with waiting for Godot, alike humane reality, one day is just like another, the day we are born indistinguishable from the day we shall die. Beckett asserts, through conventions of Absurdist Theatre although we live in a senseless world, we have one another. Human connection remains essential because alike Beckett’s fictitious reality, the real world has an illogical plot and setting, all involved characters lack purpose and remains both realistic and unrealistic. Beckett displays, through conventions of Absurdist Theatre, relationships bring about a sense of belonging and without such vital links we would live isolated in our existential dread, alone. Beckett confronts the realities of existence, but encourages us to accept the inexplicable, onstage, and embrace it in our lives.