Because the play is essentially devoid of a describable plot and narrative, it operates at a very high level of abstraction. At this level, it lends itself to a variety of religious, social and political interpretation and understanding. At the political level, there is a striking allegorical reference to the emergence of the Cold War, with the United States and the Soviet Union being the epicenters of the two opposing domains. The characters of Lucky and Pozzo bring out this implied conflict, as they express historical strains between Britain and Ireland, France and Germany (during the war), etc. For the discerning reader/viewer of the play, Marxist symbols open out too, with the two characters representing the capitalists and the workers respectively. Seen from the psychoanalytical framework, one can see expressions of The Ego and The Id as conceived by Freud.
The most profound symbolism seen in the play is that of dualism, which manifests in several forms. The two thieves, the two brothers and the two acts of the play all showcase this dualism. At a broader level, the content of the play reflects universal opposites such as the Yin and Yang, positive and negative charge, matter and anti-matter, life and death, etc. The universal dichotomies of Good and Evil as well as the divide between selfishness and altruism are also given treatment in the play. The other commonly referred to religious symbol pertains to the hill-top setting of the acts, which is perceived as the equivalent of heaven. And this brings us to another universal dichotomy – namely that of Heaven and Hell.
It is for these multiple layers of meaning and interpretation that Waiting for Godot is considered to be a vital literary contribution in the twentieth century. As the examples pointed above prove, it is a work of high and rich symbolism with broad interpretive scope. By alluding to the most universal and most pressing concerns of the human condition, Waiting for Godot does indeed justify its inclusion in the twentieth century literary canon.
Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, First published by Faber and Faber (London) in 1988 (original publication in 1956).
Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 610.