Who is Godot? What purpose does he serve in Beckett’s play? [NU. 2016]
Ans. Godot is one of the riddles of Beckett’s play called Waiting for Godot. Neither the author nor the critics do know exactly who Godot is. The audiences are only left guessing about him. When Beckett was asked who or what was meant by ‘Godot’, he replied, “If I know, I would have said so in the play”. By such a statement, we should not, however, conclude that Beckett actually did not know about Godot. He wanted his readers and critics to interpret ‘Godot’ in various ways suitable to them. Thus there is a variety of interpretations of ‘Godot’.
To the two tramps, Godot represents peace, rest from waiting, a sense of having arrived in a place that provides shelter and comfort. His coming means that they will no longer be tramps, homeless wanderers, but will have arrived home. They wait for him even though his coming is by no means certain.
Although Godot fails to appear in the play, he is as real character as any of those whom we actually very much exists for the tramps, and he directs the course of the evening for them. The tramps need Godot, to give a meaning to their universe. They depend on his arrival. So long as Godot does not come he does not come at all), everything that happens is only provisional. Indeed Godot dominates the play even though he does not appear at all. Although he is, at best, a dimly remembered acquaintance, a general image of Godot does emerge in the play; so the two are able to form at least a vague picture of him in our minds.
We learn from the conversation of the tramps that Godot lives in the capitalistic world of “family”, “agents”, “correspondents” and a “bank account”. The tramps identify him with power and authority. To the boy who brings his message, Godot has a white beard and his life is occupied by his mastery over the sheep and the goats. Godot favours this boy who is a goat-boy but beats the boy’s brother who is a shepherd. The two tramps feel uneasy about Godot. When the time comes to meet him, they will have to approach him “on their hands and knees,” and if they stopped waiting for him he would punish them. Thus Godot has several traits in common with the image of God as depicted in the Old and the New Testament.
However, several critics advise the reader not to bother too much to know about Godot. The play is about ‘waiting’ and not about ‘Godot’. If so, who is this waiting for? It is for Godot. Perhaps Godot means only something for which one waits vainly, some promise that remains unfulfilled, some hope that does not materialise.
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