Navigate through the main events in Beckett’s life leading up to Waiting for Godot:
Why don’t Didi and Gogo hang themselves? The answer may lie in Beckett’s own life.
When asked why he didn’t hang himself, Beckett replied that for his mother, “Christianity was no more consolation to her than an old school tie (which might have meant more than one supposes)” so death “might not have been worth it” (West 2). Beckett’s mother held great power over him throughout his life, and despite their fights, her ambivalence towards her religion likely rubbed off on him (Gibson 63). Beckett was no stranger to death, yet his experiences of it seem to have left him with no consolation of redemption or of joyful afterlife. Instead, just as with the ending of Waiting for Godot, only questions and uncertainty are left.
Perhaps for Beckett, like Hamlet, the fear of something after death kept him living in the midst of civil war, world war, and personal strife. Beckett’s life transected bleak times. Putting Waiting for Godot in the context of war, poverty, and violence helps rescue it from the dangerous terrain of generalities and amorphous location, and grounds it instead in a world of survival.
Beckett knew about failure. He saw political systems fall, and comfortable lives tumble to destitution. As one Beckett scholar says, Beckett’s work emphasized “the failure to get anywhere though forever striving;” though meaning was absent, there was triumph in “technics … [and] fruitless doings” (West 2-3). Didi and Gogo do things; they simply accomplish little. In the abstract, their actions are entertaining or insipid, but when related to the fruitless actions of so many vagabonds in the Irish country side or of the constant waiting in Vichy France, they resonate with humanity.
For more information on the man who created this world, see this rare 1994 documentary which traces his life and discusses his works with both Beckett himself and close friends and collaborators:
Barge, L. “Out of ireland: Revisionist strategies in beckett’s drama.” Comparative Drama. 2000 Vol. 34(2), 175-209. 10 March 2014. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1669845?accountid=351.
Cousineau, Thomas. Waiting for Godot: Form in Movement. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990. Print.
Droits réservés. “archivebeckett.”archivebeckett. The Estate of Samuel Beckett. , n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://arttattler.com/archivebeckett.html
Gibson, Andrew. Samuel Beckett. London: Reaktion Books td, 2010. Print.
Haynes, John. Samuel Beckett. 2013. The University of Reading, Reading. Beckett International Foundation. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
“Historical Wallpapers: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).” Historical Wallpapers: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://historicalwallpapers.blogspot.com/2011/04/samuel-beckett-1906-1989.html>.
Kitson, Simon. Rev. of The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables and Strangers, by Shannon Fogg. French History; Dec 2012, Vol. 26 Issue 4, p583-585, 3p. Web. http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=d0ff60b3-fd05-455d-a252-5577c2bc4f85%40sessionmgr4005&vid=11&hid=4112>.
Punch. “WW2 Cartoons from Punch magazine by Bernard Partridge | PUNCH Magazine Cartoon Archive.” WW2 Cartoons from Punch magazine by Bernard Partridge | PUNCH Magazine Cartoon Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2014. <http://punch.photoshelter.com/image/I000>.
“Samuel Beckett Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.biography.com/people/samuel-beckett-9204239>.
“Samuel Beckett.” The Norton Anthology of Drama, vol. 2. Ed. Peter Simon. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009. 843-849. Print.
The Nobel Foundation. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 1969.” The Nobel Prize in Literature 1969. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lit
“That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth – but does it float.” That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth – but does it float. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://butdoesitfloat.com/That-s-how-it-is-on-this-bitch-of-an-earth>.
Waiting for Beckett: A Portrait of Samuel Beckett. Dir. John Reilly and Melissa Shaw-Smith. 1994. Web. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyjvYByB6vA&list=PL4F92AEE3EDC87DE1.
West, Paul. “The Beckett Seminar.” Yale Review. Oct 2013, Vol. 101 Issue 4, p94-103. Online. http://ejournals.ebsco.com/Direct.aspAccessToken=7DLLLT3B395VJLMXRM9XIJLXLR0NBI9LDD&Show=Object.
Megan Behnke, 2014