The Famous Play: “Waiting for Godot” and its Hidden Meaning


Article #293

by Bill Nugent

The play, Waiting for Godot was voted the most significant English language play of the 20th century in a 1999 British poll of 800 playwrights, actors, directors and journalists. Its author, Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) received the 1969 Nobel Prize in literature for this play and his many other writings.


Waiting for Godot was controversial from the time of its premiere in Paris in 1953. It was almost banned in London where Beckett’s English translation was performed a couple of years later. It’s been performed countless times all over the world in many languages. It’s a two act absurdist play with meandering, metaphorical, and at times, off color dialogue.


It centers around two characters, the philosophical Vladimir, and the tired cynic, Estragon. They stand in front of a dead tree. Vladimir often leaves the stage to urinate and Estragon at one point suggests they hang themselves. Later on, three additional characters enter the scene to engage in circumlocutory chatter and conflict. It’s dense, opaque, inscrutable and open to an endless variety of interpretations. Godot, the one they were waiting for, never shows up. Beckett himself was often asked its meaning and like most artists, he usually preferred to keep his audience guessing. (Wikipedia)


Beckett was a key figure in the movement called The Theater of the Absurd. This was a post World War II cultural phenomenon that reflected a philosophy of extreme pessimism. Beckett’s generation had lived through the horrors of two world wars and the mass murder of millions in the holocaust. This time of pessimism was also the heyday of two radical atheist existentialist philosophers, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. It was Sartre who famously wrote: “Man is a useless passion.”


This pessimism was a sharp departure from the earlier Victorian period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Europe was astride the world and the British empire and other European empires had colonies on every continent. It was thought that education of the Asian and African peoples would bring them into enlightened European values and would civilize the world. Such arrogance came crashing down in the aftermath of bloody conflicts in Europe.


The post World War II period was also the time when Darwinian evolution was triumphant as the philosophical backdrop of western culture. You may have read that there was great resistance to Darwinism in the late 19th century in Europe and America. The elite had a hard time accepting that the human mind could have evolved from monkey brains. In America during the Progressive era, roughly 1890 to 1915, Darwinism was forced on academia by its promoters. By mid-twentieth century, Darwinism was entrenched.


Darwinian evolution gave a materialistic, godless explanation of the origin of life. It destroyed the Christian faith of many of the highly educated leaders in academia and politics. Without the restraint of Christian morals, people were totally free to do whatever they wanted and to become whatever they wanted. This is the essence of existentialism. People just exist and have no real purpose, meaning or direction.


Atheistic existentialism and its theater of the absurd were the natural outflow of a society that regarded humans as soulless descendants of apes who would lose conscious existence at death. If people have no souls and the material world is all there is, then all of your consciousness, all of your learning, loving, personal growth and experience ends at death.


The Darwinist atheists have essentially abolished the future. If consciousness ends at death, you have no existence after death. Every person ends at death. According to the Darwinian atheist, there’s no future for any one person and no meaningful future for the human race as a whole. If there’s no future conscious existence after death, there’s no ultimate destiny, purpose or meaning for any human being.


If I gave you the title and keys to a new luxury car, you would thank me but if you knew that the car would be destroyed in ten minutes and have a useful life of just ten minutes, what value would the car have? According to the atheists, the “useful life” of a human being is about 75 years, a mere grain on the sands of time. What value does a human life have if it exists for such a short time? If you have no future you have no value! No wonder they thought life was absurd!


I have an antique doorknob on my desk as I write this. I happen to like antique hardware and this is an interesting piece. It has a floral design embossed into it and a lovely brown patina. It also has the practical use of being able to open a door.


I can hold this doorknob up to a room full of atheistic secular people and ask them to tell me – from their worldview – which is more valuable; my doorknob or a million people. If they answer from their atheistic worldview and don’t appeal to any religious concept, they would have a hard time explaining why people are more valuable than a doorknob. In their view, a million people and this old doorknob are just atoms in motion and have no souls.


I could argue from the secular standpoint, that a doorknob is more valuable than a million people because the doorknob at least has a future. One hundred years from now the million people would all be dead and have no future. According to the atheistic secular worldview, their thoughts and feelings would all be gone into thin air. Their bodies would be rotting in their graves and covered with maggots. In a hundred years the doorknob would still be the same as it is today and would still open a door.


In the play, Vladimir and Estragon waited days and parsed through every philosophical complaint. It’s obvious that they were looking for ultimate meaning and purpose. They were looking for God. The play, Waiting for Godot, was a picture of modern man waiting for God but God doesn’t come. Why not? Because God already came! The dead tree in the background is a metaphor of the cross.


Man does have a future because we are not soulless descendants of apes. We are created in the image of God and we have souls that will live forever. We can reconcile with God and live with Him in eternity or we can reject Him and be banished from His loving presence in the afterlife.


The secularists then confront me and say “OK, You’ve convinced me that there’s a conscious existence after death, but I don’t have to believe your Christian dogma!” I reply to the secularists by saying: “Christianity has the best explanation of the afterlife and I can prove it. I can prove it by the many Christian miracles of healing and the Bible prophecies and their accurate fulfillments. The Bible has hundreds of prophecies in its pages that have been fulfilled down through history and in our own day. The prophecies and miracles prove that the Bible is inspired by God and that Christ came in fulfillment of prophecy and died for our sins. The Bible tells us the truth about the afterlife of all people. The Bible tells us about heaven and hell.”


God has provided for our redemption by sending Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah of Israel. Jesus came in fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament prophecies. No other figure in all of world history can make this claim! Jesus died for our sins which means that when He suffered and died He took the penalty of our sins upon Himself. He rose from the dead to offer forgiveness to all who call upon Him. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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