Study Guide

Waiting for Godot Genre

By Samuel Beckett


Drama, Modernism, Philosophical Literature, Surrealism, Tragicomedy

Ooof. With a list like that, we sure have our work cut out for us. But you can't just fit Waiting For Godot into one genre because this brilliant, game-changing play breaks the whole dang genre mold.

So let's break this bad boy down.

Drama is an easy one, since the work is a play and the conflict is entirely expressed in emotion-revealing drama.

The labels of both "Modernism" and "Surrealism" have to do with the play’s lack of a real plot and its break from narrative traditions... you know, the things that making Waiting for Godot so Waiting for Godot-errific. Waiting for Godot is Modernist in the sense that it defies classic standards, and it's 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 you know it's a biggie. Also, check out the fact that Gogo and Didi’s exchanges vacillate between absurdly comic discussions of turnips and horrible, tragic, vague suspicions that life is meaningless. The bowler hats even remind us of Charlie Chaplin, who's 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 totally subject to debate.