Just as how Heaney includes the Catholic Nationalist sensibility into his works, so does Beckett assimilate theological symbolisms in Waiting for Godot, especially that of the Christian doctrine. The cultural milieu of the play is adequately reflected in this theme, thereby underscoring the social awareness brought by the artist to his work. The choice of the name Godot (that contains ‘God’ in it) is perceived by critics to have religious connotations. This claim is vindicated by dialogues in the play that resonate with Christian concepts of salvation, rising from the dead, etc. For example, “We are saved!”, which is frequently uttered by Vladimir or Estragon can be taken as a reference to the notion of salvation. These two characters can also be seen as the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus Christ. Out of their boredom, every now and then Estragon and Vladimir contemplate committing suicide (which is also an Existentialist theme) by hanging themselves from the only prominent tree in the setting. This is again a reference to the crucifixion, but albeit with a sense of parody. Vladimir’s casual remark to Estragon in Act I, “Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?” is again a parody of a Christian proverb of the same rhyme – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Beckett, 1956, p.45) Hence, the religious symbolism is quite strong, but the tone is one of mockery and not reverence.
It is for these multiple layers of meaning and interpretation, as well as for their stamp of social awareness, that the literary works in discussion are held in high esteem by critics. As the illustrations above prove, these rich, symbolic works succeed by alluding to the most universal and most pressing concerns of the human condition. In this light, it is apt to say that social awareness is as important to Beckett as to Heaney.
Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, First published by Faber and Faber (London) in 1988 (original publication in 1956).
Haney, W. S. (2001). Beckett out of His Mind: The Theatre of the Absurd. Studies in the Literary Imagination, 34(2), 39+.
Harding, J. M. (1993). Trying to Understand ‘Godot’: Adorno, Beckett, and the Senility of Historical Dialects. CLIO, 23(1), 1+.
Mclean, S. (2008). Bodies from the Bog: Metamorphosis, Non-Human Agency and the Making of ‘Collective’ Memory. Trames, 12(3), 299+.
Minghella, A. (2006, March 20). Play It Again, Sam: Samuel Beckett’s Bleak, Absurd and Mischievous Vision Revolutionised Theatre, Inspiring Countless Other Artists. Anthony Minghella Recalls Filming One of His Plays While (Right) Leading Figures Pay Tribute. New Statesman, 135, 40+. (Minghella, 2006, p.41)
Purdy, A. (2002). The Bog Body as Mnemotope: Nationalist Archaeologies in Heaney and Tournier. Style, 36(1), 93+.