Christian Elements in Waiting for Godot -Study Material of M.A. English Literature


Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is one of the most famous plays of the world and is also included in the English syllabi of most Indian universities. Here is a review of the play from a Christian perspective. Educational Article under Calcutta, Burdwan, Jadavpur University Syllabus of MA in English.

Samuel Beckett speaks so little in Waiting for Godot, yet it invites so many critical discourses, including the religious one. Neither the text nor its author makes a claim to any definite meaning, still a new meaning is born each time one partakes the play. "The human predicament described in Beckett's first play", William Mueller had commented, "is that of man living on the Saturday after the Friday of the crucifixion, and not really knowing if all hope is dead or if the next day will bring the life which has been promised." In the five decades since Waiting for Godot was staged, several attempts to view the play from a Christian perspective relied more or less on the Mueller motif.

Waiting for Godot abounds in biblical allusions. Religion is introduced quite early in the play as Vladimir asks if Estragon have read the Bible. The nondescript tree can be universally symbolic, but from a religious stance it conjures an image of the Cross. And, despite Beckett's assertion that Godot is not God, the absent character still appears to be a messiah for the two tramps.

We are further tempted to a religious interpretation with the correlation of Lucky's idea of God "with white beard" and the identical description of Godot by the Boy. The endless waiting for Godot reflects the belief that Christ will return when the time will come. What actually sustains Vladimir and Estragon is this faith, or 'bad faith' for existentialists like Sartre, that Godot will surely come, tomorrow if not today, and harmonize all the disorders.

Estragon once compares himself to Christ, and ironically his life mirrors Christ's final days. He talks of spending the night in a ditch, an analogy to the cave that housed Christ after his death. And, learning that Estragon has been beaten, Vladimir tenderly reaches out to embrace him just like loving Veronica. The final expression of the image comes when Estragon rises from sleep and Pozzo examines the cut on his leg, thus recalling the Apostle's examination of Christ's wounds after his rising.

But the most prominent biblical reference is the crucifixion myth. Vladimir ambiguously reminds Estragon that one of the two thieves was saved; and later when the Boy says that Godot spares him but beats his brother we immediately recall the crucifixion discourse. Only, there is a reversal of the biblical allegory of the sheep being rewarded and the goats damned. Crucifixion is also conveyed through the tree, the tramps' attempt to hang themselves from it, the "skull" in Lucky's speech and so forth. The tree pose in Act Two is yet another symbol of crucifixion. Vladimir's feeding Estragon on carrot is reminiscent of Jesus feeding a crowd of five thousand on meagre foods. The tree for Estragon seems "more like a bush", thus invoking Exodus's picture of Moses on Mount Sinai. These references are apparently disconnected, but the overall tone they create tempts the recipient more and more into a religious interpretation.


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