Waiting for Godot

by

Samuel Beckett

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Themes and Colors
Humor and the Absurd Theme Icon
Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Icon
Modernism and Postmodernism Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Humanity, Companionship, Suffering, and Dignity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Waiting for Godot, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Humor and the Absurd

Waiting for Godot is a prime example of what has come to be known as the theater of the absurd. The play is filled with nonsensical lines, wordplay, meaningless dialogue, and characters who abruptly shift emotions and forget everything, ranging from their own identities to what happened yesterday. All of this contributes to an absurdist humor throughout the play. However, this humor is often uncomfortably mixed together with tragic or serious content to make a…

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Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism

As Beckett's title indicates, the central act of the play is waiting, and one of the most salient aspects of the play is that nothing really seems to happen. Vladimir and Estragon spend the entire play waiting for Godot, who never comes. Estragon repeatedly wants to leave, but Vladimir insists that they stay, in case Godot actually shows up. As a result of this endless waiting, both Vladimir and Estragon are "bored to death,"…

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Modernism and Postmodernism

Written in 1953, Waiting for Godot was a somewhat late successor to the vibrant experimentation in art and literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries known as Modernism. Modernist writers saw themselves as dramatically breaking with the past and innovating in all aspects of art, literature, and culture. Beckett's play shares with Modernist works a fascination with pushing the boundaries of literary genre, representation, and etiquette, as well as an interest in language…

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Time

Closely related to the Modernist and Postmodernist aspects of Beckett's play is its conception of time, an issue of fascination to Modernists and Postmodernists alike. Perhaps the most important thing about time in the play is that it is uncertain. All of the characters (and thus the audience, as well) are unsure of exactly when the play is taking place. The time period of the play is unclear, as is the relative chronology of the…

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Humanity, Companionship, Suffering, and Dignity

Beckett's play is filled with a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Vladimir and Estragon (especially Estragon) are starved for food, in physical pain, and "bored to death." Both fear an anonymous "they" who threaten to beat them at night, and are frequently unable to move of their own accord. Estragon mentions "billions of others," who have been killed, but does not elaborate. Lucky, meanwhile, is treated horribly, pulled about by a…

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