Religious significance in Waiting for Godot

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Waiting for Godot is a notable literary work by Samuel Beckett. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Waiting for Godot.


Do you find any religious significance in Waiting for Godot? Discuss.
Or, what does the waiting signify in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”?

Samuel Beckett (1906 -1989) is an Irish renowned playwright and novelist. “Waiting for Godot” is his best work. The play is one of the classical works of absurd theatre. It is a multi-layered drama with many interpretations. The play may seem absurd, but with deep religious connotations, it can be associated with many religious interpretations, such as the Christian myth of two thieves, waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ, etc.

Interpretation of Christian Myth: The theme of the two thieves on the cross, the theme of uncertainty in the hope of salvation, and the opportunity for divine grace have really spread the whole drama. The two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, have been shown as vagrants. In the beginning, Vladimir refers to this: 

“One of the thieves was saved. It’s a reasonable percentage.”

In Act One, he mentions it several times. Even Vladimir has been seen talking about repentance. He tells Estragon several times to wait for Mr. Godot, and when Estragon asks the reason, he says, Mr. Godot, otherwise punish them! Although Beckett writes these dialogues in a very funny and lighthearted way, this has a strong meaning. This means that Vladimir has a belief in myth, and he is eager for salvation. He wants to be one of the thieves who was saved.

Biblical elements: The play has many Christian ideas. It also deals with many biblical elements and symbols. At the beginning of the play, Vladimir asks Estragon whether he has read the Bible. Throughout the play, the biblical and Christian elements are presented with many symbols. The background image of the ‘tree’ has multiple meanings, and religious interpretations can be seen as it is the image of the cross, where Jesus Christ was crucified. Their anticipation also reflects the early biblical concept of Christ’s return on the Day of Judgment or Doomsday.

Mr. Godot and the Second Coming: One popular interpretation of waiting for Godot is the second coming aspect of Jesus Christ. One meaning of Mr. Godot is none other than ‘God,’ and there are many clues and evidence in the play that symbolically says that Mr. Godot is a symbol of God.

Religious interpretation of the waiting of Vladimir and Estragon symbolizes humanity waiting for the elusive return of a saviour. This interpretation makes Pozzo into the pope and Lucky into the faithful. It is also seen in the dialogue between Vladimir and the boy. The personality that Beckett describes is much related to an image of a Christian God. This description clearly shows that Mr. Godot means God. Other dialogues between Vladimir and Estragon describe the characteristics of Mr. Godot. 

“Estragon: And if we dropped him? (Pause) If we dropped him?
Vladimir: He’d punish us. Estragon: And if he comes? Vladimir: We’ll be saved.”

It means Mr. Godot will give punishment if they leave, and Mr. Godot is the saviour also, they will be rewarded if they wait. This is the illusion of the postmodern period.

Religious dilemma: The play is mostly interpreted as an Existential play. There are many elements that favour existentialism more than even religious interpretations. Beckett presents a religious dilemma that means counterarguments against religion. It becomes a very strong, interesting point of discussion and debate in the play. Beckett, very intentionally, created these two characters- Estragon and Vladimir.

Among them, Vladimir is shown as more intelligent, craving for salvation, moral, religious, and thinker than Estragon. Estragon seems dumb, irreligious, sleeping-not thoughtful, only craving for necessary things for the body but not interested in spiritual thinking. Thus, two ideas about existentialism and religious waiting clash in the play. 

It is firmly believed that drama has the concept of existentialism. But to support existentialism, the author shows religious ideas. And he tries to deconstruct it. Consciously or unconsciously, the author presents many Christian myths and biblical images. So, “Waiting for Godot” shows Beckett’s talent, which is why the reader can interpret a lot of meaning from this short play.