Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot
In Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett asks what it is that we are really doing on Earth. He feels that God plays a key role in the solution to the human condition, however, since we do not truly know if God exists, life it would seem is simply a quest to search for an alternate explanation. Most of the time we attempt to distract ourselves from the issue and try desperately to bring some sort of meaning into our life while silently waiting for someone or something to come and give us an answer. According to Beckett, the definition of human existence is waiting to ascertain if the possibility of salvation with a possible God exists, or if all that lies ahead is darkness; he feels that all other aspects of life are insignificant and essentially can be reduced to nothing. These ideas are illustrated in a play where time seems to be irrelevant, nothing of importance ever happens, and the main characters are left waiting for someone who may or may not ever come.
At the very beginning, Beckett hints at his proposal to the solution to the human condition. Vladimir tells the ignorant Estragon the story from the Bible of the two thieves that were crucified at the same time as Jesus. Apparently, one of the thieves believed in God, the other did not--the one who believed was saved. In Vladimir's opinion, this is not that bad a deal: "One of the thieves was saved. (Pause.) It's a reasonable percentage" (8). It seems that according to the story, reward or punishment is handed out depending on behavior (or at least belief). Vladimir's thoughts are somewhat parallel to those of the French philosopher Pascal who rationalized that given the possible outcomes, one is better to bet that God exists. However, as Vladimir continues, Beckett makes an important point in the variations of the four versions of the story: "And yet...how is it that of the four Evangelists only one speaks of the thief being saved. The four of them were there--or thereabouts--and only one speaks of a thief being saved" (9). Therefore, in the Book that many have long considered to hold the solutions to all our problems, there are 'inconsistencies'. Beckett poses the questions: 'Is anything really for certain?'; 'Can assumptions at all be made?'. In a word, he responds: no. And right away, he gives the first evidence of a major theme.
In the same vein, there seems to be some problem with time--which could be viewed as directly related to this overall problem of uncertainty--evident throughout the entire play. The characters (especially poor Estragon) have an especially difficult time remembering events, the days on which events occurred, and the people involved. They do not know if what happened 'yesterday' happened, or if it was a dream. They do not know if they are in the right location, or even what day it is:
V: What are you insinuating? That we've come to the wrong place?
E: We came here yesterday.
V: Ah no, there you're mistaken.