Waiting for Godot

Once I finished reading through this play for the first time, I was questioning everything about it, from “Is Godot God?” to “Where are they?” to “Are they gay or European?” (Clearly, some of my questions were more academic than others.) Needless to say, after reading, I continued to go back and reread sections, enjoying my confusion. And my impressions changed each time I considered something in a new way.

When I first read Waiting for Godot, I interpreted it as thus: Vladimir and Estragon were in Hell, waiting for God (Godot) to come and end their sentence. After a quick google search of “Waiting for Godot,” however, I decided this was a faulty conclusion to make. And yet, I found plenty of evidence to support my initial impressions of the story. So, even though I interpret it differently now, after our discussion and some research, here are my main reasons for believing Godot was God and our two heroes were in Hell.

One might point out that from the bleak, void setting and lack of action, Gogo and Didi would be in more of a purgatory state than full-out Hell. Although I also considered this, I also reasoned that Hell would not be what one normally expects: fire, pitchforks, and endless torture. But besides physical pain, my idea of “endless torture” also includes the faulty memory seemingly bestowed to Gogo, Didi, and even Pozzo. Not being able to remember what, where, why, and when would freak the heck out of me, like being the original Peter Pan minus the fun, adventure, and renown. Dementia is scary.

On a much less personal note, there is textual evidence that originally convinced me Gogo and Didi were damned souls. For example, there is Vladimir’s referral to Estragon as “His Highness,” to which Gogo replies he slept in a ditch (Beckett 1-2). As I stated in class, I took this seriously when it was most likely sarcasm, but I had a reason: this quip reminded me of the parable of the rich man who was sent to the depths of Hell after he died, quite similar to a royal “Highness” having to sleep in a ditch.

Another striking biblical reference in my mind was the servant boy who worked for Godot, whose job was to “minds the goats” while his brother tended the sheep (Beckett 42). Immediately, I noticed the reference to the New Testament saying to separate the goats from the sheep, meaning to separate the people who scorn God’s words from his followers. (I wish I could elaborate further, but I am not a very good Catholic, and most of what I know of parables comes from The Manga Bible and Godspell.) Since it his job to tend the goats, I inferred this meant Gogo and Didi, his charges, were considered to be “unclean animals,” and therefore citizens of Hell.

And just after, while reading the bible, I discovered Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, / but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” This instantly reminded me of the boy and his brother. Assuming Godot is God, the two boys would be considered his “sons.” The “good” son, who minds the sheep, is said to be the one who is beaten, while the “bad” son who minds the goats is not beaten at all. This interpretation of the proverb implies Godot’s hatred of the one son, to send him to a hatable place like Hell to check on its charges, and his love of the other son, who is not seen, only talked about.

Toward the end of the story, Vladimir muses, “At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on,” which I took as yet another sign that he and Estragon are in the afterlife of the condemned (Beckett 81). In a particular popular Christian-fantasy children’s series that shall go unnamed, the final book ends with the deaths of pretty much all the characters. The “good guys” find themselves in a paradise-like land, along with the “unbelievers.” Yet even though the unbelievers are in the same afterlife as the good guys, they can only see a dim shed and some rotting veggies, not the lovely scene around them. It may not be the most scholarly comparison, but I connected Didi and Gogo’s inability to remember, lack of setting, and surreal nothingness with the possibility that they were in paradise (i.e. Godot’s home, where Godot must be waiting) all along, but unable to see/hear/feel any of it. Which meant forever waiting for something they could never see. Which meant the false hope of that goat boy. Which meant never being able to open their eyes. Which, to me, meant Hell.

After this very long and drawn-out explanation, I have to say that despite my evidence, both reasonable and questionable, my initial convictions about Godot being God and our friends Gogo and Didi residing in Hell are not what the play is about at all. But since there are no definitive answers, I would argue that this interpretation of the play is at least reasonable, if not accurate. Even if my answers are wrong, at least they’re answers.

 

Source: Waiting for Godot

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