The Theme of Time in Waiting for Godot

In the modern age man has to race hard against time. In an Absurd drama, however, the dramatic Personae are separated from the world, living in no-man's-land. They have shifted from sanity to madness, for no human mind can face squarely the terrible condition of the human predicament.

Samuel Beckett

They have shed their human qualities and live in the meaningless, emptiness of nothingness. Such men are not at all particular about time. "Time has stopped", says Vladimir when Pozzo tries to look up the time from his watch.

That explains why the first Act of Waiting for Godot is repeated in the Second. Nothing is changed; nothing new happens; characters forget what they have said or heard in the earlier scenes; the language is repeated. If told, that they are doing the same thing or talking the same thing over again, they seem to be in blissful ignorance. For Vladimir and Estragon no purpose in life exists. And naturally for such person’s time does not exist. As the play progresses, time moves fast, and the development of the characters. But since everything is repeated, we feel that time is not moving. Heraclitus, the ancient Greek Philosopher once said: "You cannot take your bath twice in the same river", for there is a ceaseless flow of water. So also there is a ceaseless flow of time. In Waiting for Godot, however, the flow of time has stopped. The play is static, the characters static. In fact, everything in the play has stopped. As the situations and the dialogues are being repeated, nobody seems to notice it. For everybody has lost his memory. The two tramps suggest that they should move, and yet they remain transfixed and as if terrified.

Vladimir and Estragon still device ways and means to kill the time, so that their Waiting for Godot may be less dull and monotonous. They, therefore, indulge in idle talks; they play at being Pozzo and Lucky; they do the tree; they resort to antics and take physical exercises.

The two tramps wishfully think that they are keeping up some action. But it is not action worth the name. Beckett seems to point out that Vladimir and Estragon are the representatives of the people of the modern age, who move about and talk incessantly and feel that they have some activities, but critically examined, they are nothing. We are all Sisyphus, taking the rock to the top of the mountain and letting it roll down. The same process continues. Vladimir and Estragon improvise pastimes, which are all mechanical. The audience watching their pastimes, and activities are made aware that their activities and pastimes are equally mechanical and useless.

Pozzo and Lucky are, however, conscious of time. Pozzo loses his watch, and Vladimir, Estragon and Pozzo frantically move about in search of the lost watch. Pozzo at last recalls that he has left his watch in his manor. But he has also lost his memory, for only a few minutes ago, he did consult his watch to "observe his schedule."

As Pozzo becomes blind, he can no longer look up the time from his watch. He says ruefully: "The blind have no notion of time; the things of time are hidden from them too." He, thus, is on the same platform with Estragon and Vladimir. To Estragon, today, tomorrow, and yesterday are alike. Vladimir's condition is not that bad, but he wonders how in the course of a day the true, by the side of which they are Waiting for Godot, could have burgeoning leaves.

Related Topics

Murphy (Fiction)

Endgame (Drama)

Biography of Samuel Beckett