Waiting for Godot
by Samuel Beckett
Drama, Modernism, Philosophical Literature, Surrealism, Tragicomedy
OK, with a list like that, we sure have our work cut out for us. Drama is an easy one, since the work is a play and the conflict is entirely expressed in emotion-revealing drama. Modernism and surrealism have to do with the play’s lack of real plot and its breaking from narrative traditions. Waiting for Godot is modernist in the sense that it defies classic standards, and it is surrealist in that Vladimir and Estragon’s world has no clear system of logic or rules. Remember that line when Vladimir wonders aloud if he’s sleeping and merely under the illusion of consciousness? That’s surrealism in a nutshell. The label "tragicomedy" is in the title, so good luck arguing with that one. (We meant to say something scholarly and authoritative, like the fact that Gogo and Didi’s exchanges vacillate between the absurdly comic discussions of turnips and the horrible, tragic, vague suspicions that life is meaningless. The bowler hats even remind us of Charlie Chaplin the ultimate tragicomedian.)
Lastly, Waiting for Godot is most definitely a work of philosophical literature, exploring the arguments of the absurd (that the universe is irrational and without meaning) and existentialism (that the solution to such irrationality is to become conscious of one’s freedom and live life anyway through a series of choices and actions). Notice we said that Waiting for Godot explores these themes – whether or not it agrees with them is subject to debate.