Absurdity of Existence

The paper evaluates the actions of Vladimir and Estragon in the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett to find out whether the two are living the absurd or if they fail to live up to Camus standard. The introduction gives the background argument of Albert Camus on absurdity and purposelessness of life and ends up with the thesis statement. This section also introduces the two characters in the play. There a section on the review of the actions of Vladimir and Estragon in the play. The paper goes on to analyze the actions of these two characters against the ideas of Camus. The last part is a conclusion that sums up the whole paper.

Albert Camus holds on to the argument that life is absurd and purposeless. Human beings always struggle to become aware of the absurdity of life, and the awareness causes them suffering. Human beings desire to live a meaningful life is evident in the play, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. This desire to have a meaningful life is likely to consume a persons existence. In this play, there are two lead characters, Vladimir and Estragon. It is the actions of these two men that are being evaluated in the essay to find out whether the two are living the absurd or if they fail to live up to Camus standard.

Before the evaluation it is important to review the play so that to understand the actions of the Vladimir and Estragon. The play has been criticized by many authors and theorists. One of the critics, Martin Esslin, regarded the play a part of the theatre of the absurd (Notaling, n.d). Another theory regarding the play is that it is in line with the existential theory. The scene of the play is only one, a tree. The exact location of the tree is not clear and it looks as if the two characters are placed in a distance world. The simplicity of the scene reveals elements of absurdity that is located in space and time. The acts of the play are two, that is, a day and the following day. The two characters and where they are located reveal some aspects of nostalgia as explained in The Myth of Sisyphus written by Camus.The setting of the play is simple and deserted. It seems to reveal humans efforts to find a separate existence that is full of meaning and one that makes sense to him. Vladimir and Estragon are very far from getting this meaning and thus ends up waiting for nothing. This cannot be described because it is just nothing.

The dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon is the center of the play. They discuss and question one another in the two acts without getting answers or clarity. They are confused and cannot understand anything. The two are just waiting for Godot. Their waiting for Godot who does not show up means a lot to the two men. It does not look like Vladimir and Estragon have the slightest idea of why they are waiting for Godot. As a result, the waiting looks like it is boring and frustrating. In their efforts to kill time as they wait, they engage in meaningful discussion and actions. The two even thinks of committing suicide. This has is significant in two ways. The first one is that it shows the seriousness of their boredom. The second one reveals the meaningless of their life without Godot. Whenever they contemplate leaving, they hope for the coming of Godot. The anxiety of how things would be without waiting makes them to continue waiting. It seems that Vladimir and Estragon are stuck. In day one a messenger from Godot comes to let them know that Godot would not come that day, but that the following day he would not miss.

There are other two characters, Pozzo and Lucky his dog joins the two. The two characters are the ones who change the pattern of Vladimir and Estragon during their desperation. Pozzo creates confusion is the two about time, subordination and meaning. The dog is always on a leash and has been treated as a slave by Pozzo. He is made to work and perform for his master. The presence of the two seems to make Vladimir and Estragon uncomfortable and irritated. This is despite the fact that the feeling brief and is escapes their mind the moment it is gone.

In the second day of their waiting, which is the second act, Estragon seems to have forgotten all about Pozzo and his dog. He seems to forget everything that happens in the past days. This makes the whole act to circle around the element of time. Vladimir and Estragon seems to be aware of time because they are always finding means to pass time. Despite this fact, when it comes to reminiscence, and repetition, the two characters become confused. Whenever they try to remember whether they are at the correct place, and time for their appointment with Godot, Estragon begins to panic.

Pozzo and Lucky comes back again the next day. This time the Pozzo is blind and the more the two characters are struggling with the waiting and the trying to get the sense of it. Pozzo wants assistance from the two, but they do not seem so keen to help. The messenger comes for the second time to let them know that Godot would not be coming that day, but the following day he would surely come. The two characters are even more frustrated and think that they should not come the following day, and if they came they would surely hang themselves.

The two are dependent on Godots coming for meaning. They cannot make sense of the situation without the arrival of Godot. They spend their days waiting for this to happen. The hardest part in all this is the waiting and that is why they keep wondering what to do. It is not just the waiting that is hard, but also figuring what to do as they wait. Without the arrival of Godot, the two sees to have lost sense of their days. The penalty for dropping Godot would be loss of meaning. The waiting is what provides them with something to occupy their life. Without this, they are more lost in their lack of meaning. This is the reason why the only two alternatives left for the two is either waiting or killing themselves. They are grappling with Nihilism.

The existential philosophy holds that most views and what one believes to be the reality is simply illusions. Reality and all the comfort that it offers do not exist. Following the Death of God life has no purpose or sense (Grene, 1959). In the play, Godot represents God. God, in this case is not essentially in Christians point of view, but the idea of a being that has made humanity with purpose. It is this being that gives universality, harmony and clarity. Camus argues that human beings tend to turn to God to acquire the impossible. The impossible in this case means to comprehend the total truth and the how the world is free from our notions. According to Camus viewpoint accepting God is when suicide is at its utmost level. His notion of philosophical suicide is at the time when one argues that life has no meaning, and one seeks to obtain meaning from the meaningless. At the moment that one realizes that life is meaningless, he tries to escape it. Nevertheless Camus argues that escaping the absurdity of existence is suicide.  

God provides the direction in the journeys of life. The fear that God evokes to human being and felt by him is what gives human being a purpose to life. This is so by wanting sins to be repented throughout human life. It is through this fear that humans life is given purpose. Therefore it is through the existence of God and life has meaning. This meaning or purpose can only be obtained through being devoted to God. From the play, God and Godot is one and the same thing. This is the reason why Vladimir and Estragon feel that they have to wait for him because of the meeting. They feel obligated to continue waiting because of their devotion to him, without which they have no purpose (Notaling, n.d).
The two men are living absurdly in waiting for a man who will never come. Nietzsche argues that just like Godot God never existed. This is basically the death of the notion of God, or Godot. This can also be viewed from the point of view that God has deserted human being, just like the two characters were deserted by Godot. The whole meaning of creation is to provide purpose or meaning. From this point of view, the Nihilists, obtains the reality of meaninglessness. People are always in need of finding meaning and purpose, but receive to accept deception by religion, beliefs and truth (Notaling, n.d). Vladimir and Estragon are absorbed in desperation. They are not only grappling with gaining consciousness of the lifes reality, but also in absurdity of existence. Vladimir and Estragon have not yet understood the absurdity of existence. This is why they are grappling with getting the meaning of the absurdity of existence. This is the reason why the two thinks of committing suicide. This is in line with the philosophy of Camus.  

Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus shows human as possessing a wild longing for clarity. That which appeared to be clear turns out to reveal ones lack of knowledge and leads to nostalgia for comprehension, purpose and clarity. The nostalgia for comprehension eats up ones existence. The disappointment for failure to obtain meaning is what causes one to comprehend suicide. This is the reason why Vladimir and Estragon comprehends suicide a number of instances. They actually thought of hanging themselves on the tree that they always waited under. Suicide can be taken as the ultimate end to a purposeless life. Camus adds that it is an effort to escape from the awareness of absurdity. This means that a person is looking for the meaning in life without realizing that life is actually meaningless. Here there is a contradiction that is lies not only in philosophical suicide but also in real suicide. When one commits suicide he claims to have obtained the meaning of life, that is, death after getting to know that life is meaningless. Is looking for the meaning of life causes people to discover that like is meaningless, therefore there is no meaning that can be obtained. This means that even the people that claim to have gotten the meaning of life through death are not telling the truth. The only meaning that is left for human beings after discovering the meaninglessness of existence is maintaining consciousness of it. This is where Camus concludes that living is keeping the absurd alive. Keeping it alive is, above all contemplating it.

Vladimir complains that every man has to bear his little cross until when he dies. After he dies, he is forgotten. Estragon says that they should keep on talking calmly since they cannot remain silent. It is proving hard for the two to figure out what they are supposed to do. It is only death that seems so attractive, because it looks as if it is the only way to terminate the confusion of existence (Beckett, 1994). Camus argues that these are the exact thoughts of a man living in absurdity and grappling with nostalgia. This is the desire of person that his existence has a purpose and exceeds meaning. They really would want their life to have meaning and purpose. The absurdity that surrounds this person is the clearer awareness that life may not mean anything or have any truth after all. This is why Camus concludes that even though his heart is his, he will never be able to define it. The gap between the certainty of existence and the contentment that man tries to give that assurance will never be filled. He claims that he will forever remain a stranger to himself.

But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or notwhat are we doing here, that is question. And we are blessed in this that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot. This is a clear depiction of philosophical suicide as explained by Camus. Where nothing else makes sense in ones life it is possible to contemplate the only thing that could render it all worth while. He adds that where a man comes to the realization that the world does not march up to his conceptions and notions about it, what comes up is the problem of absurdity. When God deserts man and the man realizes his inevitable ignorance of the world, it makes his feeling of absurd become apparent and definite. This is where Camus asserts that mans reaction to philosophical suicide is in escape. He tries to escape the absurd and the grapple is evaded.  

The two characters are waiting for the purpose and truth of their life. The symbol of the meaning of their life is Godot. When the Godot fails to turn up, the two are surrounded with illusions of meaning (Notaling, n.d). According to Camus, when the meaning does not come, they are filled with nostalgia, they are left hoping for meaning and clarity of their life. Camus defines absurd as the confrontation of the illogical and wild desire for the clarity that is echoed in the heart of man. Every human being is obsessed with the desire to getting the meaning of life and to categorize it within what he believes to be the reality. The problem of the absurd comes in where man comes to the realization that even those before him who tried to classify it are not certain. They thus leave human being with his personal knowledge that wavers at even higher ground due to the significance of clarity in mans heart. This is the idea behind the struggling. It is the reason why Vladimir and Estragon are not in a position to know what to do without the coming of Godot.

The things that Vladimir and Estragon are doing during their wait frustrate them endlessly. Vladimir proposes that they should do something as they wait, as opposed to inaction. The uselessness of how the waiting is used up seems to be a source of frustration to Estragon. This is the reason why the character relies on his habit. This is why he is seen putting on and removing his boots over and over throughout the play. This is what Camus refers to as ridiculous character of habit (Camus, 1991 p. 443). It is this habit that lets man repress his absurdity. During the moment when Estragon starts to wonder whether the boots are really his, he begins to become aware of his ridiculous actions. Camus argues that when a man becomes aware of absurdity, he is forever attached to it. When Estragon looses his boots he gets frustrated. This can be explained by Camus concept of nostalgia.

It is clear that a mans awareness of nostalgia is more difficult to handle that being unaware of it. There are people who are conscious of the meaninglessness, but they are convinced that they are free. Within consciousness, existence is absurd life is more difficult to comprehend. Awareness of ones desperation might render it more difficult. Nevertheless they might be the only thing that sets man free from the illusion of freedom. It is the illusion of freedom that is provided by God or faith. Along with it comes the illusion of purpose and meaning. It is this illusion of freedom that man uses to select what is meaningful or important. But considering that the choices of freedom are not real, the significance of those choices is an illusion. Gaining awareness, the escape from daily sleep reveals the initial step towards absurd freedom.
The time that Vladimir and Estragon wait is also hard to tell, just like the place is undistinguishable. Pozzo accepts the fact that he has no idea of time. For the two characters, the only idea of time they have is dependant upon the arrival of Godot. The waiting endured by the two extends through time. When Godot arrives, he is the one who will answer their questions and make their life tolerable. Nothing else seems to matter to Vladimir and Estragon except the arrival of Godot. Camus introduces the concept of freedom of action. The two characters could have chosen to drop the wait and go with Pozzo and Lucky.

Pozzo is unconscious of the existence of Godot. His life continues just fine without waiting for what the two are waiting for. On the first day, Pozzo signifies the contentment of the society with ignorance of the purpose of the world. He is unaware of the absurdity of life and thus more contented in living a life that is based on habit. This is the reason why the two characters are irritated by Pozzo. The two are relying on Godot to make the sense of it all, while the reality is that there is none to be made.

In the following day, Pozzo cries for help and when Vladimir and Estragon decides to got to his rescue, they discover that he is blind. Pozzo does not remember meeting the two. He gets annoyed when the two asks him about time and his reminiscence. It seems that he is the one who is now suffering nostalgia. He is desperate because he has been in control of his slave and his travels. Now that he has become blind he no longer has control or meaning. The only thing that he demands at the moment is pity, but Vladimir and Estragon have none to offer. It seems like now Pozzo is aware of absurdity.

Even with the desire to get the meaning of life, one strives to be recognized as a person. Every man wants to have meaning and importance and be recognized by other people as being important. Vladimir and Estragon seems to have lost the capacity to tell living things apart from other living things. If or not a person cannot remember a name, or who remembered what, it is clear that the play tries to reveal the unity of humanity in relation to the concept that every man is alone to examine the odd vegetation of those distance region. After a person becomes aware of the absurdity of living, reasons why one is significant tend to fall away. When the characters realize that Godot might not show up anyway, they start realizing that the time they have spent waiting might have been wasted. They start to ask the messenger if Godot really exists and what he does. The answer from the messenger is that he does nothing. They realize that he will never show up after all.  

The meaning of life is one of the most urgent questions. The characters spend their days waiting for Godot. They are convinced that when he finally shows up, their lives will be fulfilled. This is because they would get the meaning and purpose. It is only Godot who would offer meaning and purpose to their life when nothing else seems to work. Camus would agree with this, but would respond with a claim that the two must realize that there is no meaning or purpose. They did not have to wait for Godot to give meaning because he would never come. The two are living in absurd, but they do not seem to be aware of it. They are consumed with the desire to find meaning and purpose, which according to Camus, they will never get because it does not exist.


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