Samuel Beckett's most famous play Waiting for Godot was first written in French in 1948 and translated in English in 1952, that is to say shortly after the end of World War II. At that time, the threat of the Cold War, the recent horror of the concentration camps and the invention of the atomic bomb started to cast doubts upon the usual idea that civilisation could move mankind forwards only in a positive way. Society was progressively losing faith in civilisation and progress and this disillusionment was notably expressed through the existentialist movement that emerged then and called into question the real meaning of human condition in the world. Beckett's work was highly influenced by the historical and philosophical context of his time and, according to Andrew Kennedy, his position regarding the concept of art became more radical: his 'fairly typical modernist'(14) concerns turned during the post-war period into a 'total skepticism about the value, and even the possibility, of artistic expression'(14).
[...] Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber Calder, John. The philosophy of Samuel Beckett. London: Calder Cronin, Anthony. Samuel Beckett: the Last Modernist. London : HarperCollins Driver, Tom F . "Beckett by the Madeleine." Columbia University Forum (summer 1961): 23. Fletcher, John. Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Krapp's last tape. London : Faber and Faber Fletcher, John. "Modernism and Samuel Beckett." Facets of European Modernism. ed. Janet Garton Norwich: University of East Anglia Kennedy, Andrew K . Samuel Beckett. [...]
[...] Nealon even considers their situation as a conflict between the modernist and postmodernist views of the world and explains that they are 'trapped by the modernist nostalgia for legitimation in Godot: they have a totalizing, modernist world view in an infinite, post- modern world' (qtd in Kim: 19). Indeed, the two characters are acting like modernist characters: they consider Godot as a general and thus totalizing reason for the meaning of their lives and they show their modernist behaviour by waiting endlessly for him, which is the proof that they give credit to his existence and also to his absence. [...]
[...] To do so, we will underline and analyse the modernist features of the play as well as its postmodernist aspects and finally analyse how and to what extent Beckett's work can be considered as pivotal in the move between the two movements. To begin with, it is important to notice that Beckett's play is composed of several modernist features. The first and most important one is its fidelity to the spirit of opposition, one of the main characteristics of the modernist movement. [...]
[...] Then it seems Godot/God is a reason or an excuse for humanity here embodied by Vladimir and Estragon to find a purpose to their lives. The whole play could then stand as an existential questioning of the human condition, of the importance of the place human beings give to religion and, as Fletcher describes it, of the progressive death of God in contemporary society: '[the play stands] as the most apt dramatic image yet created of our situation in a world without God'(15). [...]
[...] Moreover the notion of time among characters does not seem to be the same; for instance, the boy sent by Godot at the end of each act does not remember that he met Vladimir the previous day and Vladimir, hearing that, becomes rather violent. According to J. Calder, this reaction is due to the fact that Vladimir wants to be remembered by the boy, because being remembered is the proof that he exists (35). Once more, this meets the idea of human beings' need of recognition by the society and even more importantly the recognition by God, which would somehow ensure them a victory against death. [...]
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