Theater Sisyphus, in his essay, “Myth of Sisyphus” in

Theater of the Absurd is one
of the most significant theatrical movements of 1950s. Mainly it is based on
the philosophy of existentialism and idea of absurdity. 

French philosopher Albert
Camus argues that man’s quest for meaning and purpose of life is futile. He
describes this through his character, Sisyphus, in his essay, “Myth of
Sisyphus” in which he has to push a rock up to the mountain only to see it
rolling down back and he has to do it all over again. He lives his life doing
this meaningless task. Critic Martin Esslin’s use of the term “absurd” is
derived from Camus’s “Myth of Sisyphus”. His essay, “The Theater of the Absurd”
discusses the theme of existentialism in Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for
Godot”. Existential philosophy states that human beings exist in a world that
does not have any defined moral. There is nothing such as good or bad. Humans
are simply what they choose to be and they are the result of their choices and
what they want to believe in. They are the end result of their actions. Nothingness
is the essence of human existence.

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According to Martin Esslin,
subject of the play is not Godot but waiting. We keep waiting for things,
purpose, person or death. This is what happens in the play as well. Despite the
fact that Estragon and Vladimir does nothing as such in the play, there is not
a single moment in which they are not literally doing nothing. They keep
talking about one thing or the other in order to prevent thinking about their
useless existence.

 

Vladimir: Say something!

Estragon: I’m trying.

Long silence

Vladimir: Say anything at
all!

Estragon: What do we do now?

Vladimir: Wait for Godot.
(54)

 

Camus believed that waiting,
which is basically a break of a routine or habit, causes people to think about
their identity and in attempt to answer these questions, one can go to the
extent of insanity. The tramps continuously attempt to keep talking to remain
sane. When they run out of things to say, they think about horrifying things,
like, suicide. The whole idea of talking seems as an escape from reality. They
keep talking to avoid the fact that there is nothing meaningful in real to be
done, that their existence is futile. Every time they get stuck with the
question, what do we do now? Answer comes, wait for the Godot but who is he,
why do they need to wait for him, where he will come are the questions that
remain unanswered. It seems they’ve created a person named Godot to justify
their wasteful waiting. Both of them keep questioning each other when Godot
will arrive and none of them knows. Estragon asks what if Godot won’t come, Vladimir
answers then they will come again tomorrow and so on. Both of them are afraid
that their reason of waiting would come to an end once Godot arrives and keep
making useless conversations. Whenever they feel that their wait is about to
end now, they try to escape it. Estragon remain restless till Pozzo presents
himself and it becomes clear that he is not Godot. When the little boy comes
with the message from Godot, instead of asking him about Godot, Vladimir ask
all sort of questions in attempt to postpone the message and Estragon becomes
aggressive.

 

Esslin talks about the change
as an illusion. The more things changes, the more they remain the same. It is
true as it appears a meaningful change has taken place but the underlying
fundamental remains the same. The play seems to end in precisely the same
condition it began, with no real change having occurred. From Act 1 to Act 3,
many things changed but in actually nothing changed at all. Estragon and
Vladimir keeps waiting for Godot till the end of the play and he never
arrives.  They meet same people they’ve
met before yet fails to recognize them like Estragon and Vladimir fails to
recognize Pozzo when they meet him and when he leaves, Vladimir says he has
known him.  

 

Elements of absurdity can be
noticed in various scenes. Estragon’s struggle with his boot and his remark “Nothing
to be done.” Vladimir asks if it hurts when Estragon ask for his help, Estragon
cries, “He wants to know if that hurts” and after few dialogues Vladimir
repeats the same sentence. Vladimir keep looking into his hat even when he
finds nothing inside but still continues to repeat this. Estragon repeats this
action with his boots and fails too. Estragon is beaten by an unknown crowd but
he does not remember who those people were. Both of them keep telling each
other that they are going but do not move.

Awareness about the lack of
purpose, state of anguish is one of the main themes of the absurd theater. Vladimir
and Estragon subconsciously know that they lack the purpose of living and hence
make silly and senseless conversations. They live in denial that their
existence has no purpose and desperately tries to create one. The play does not
have any defined plot or theme as such and dialogues are loosely constructed as
well. There is no logical or reason of events.  Characters are not able to convey even the
simplest ideas and language becomes a barrier.

Vladimir and Estrogen
represents the humankind which is purposeless and has no defined goal, they
keep waiting for things to happen to give them a sense of being alive even when
there is no assurance of their wait being futile. Just like them, everyone is
waiting for “Godot” to come whereas in reality, there is no “Godot”