In these last years I have noticed that my students’ approach to Beckett‘s “Waiting for Godot“, has changed, or better, improved. It seemed as if they as if they could recognize in its obscure, fragmented language and complex themes something somewhat “familiar”. Strange indeed. You know, my “audience” is mostly composed of students of about nineteen, who are about to graduate and naturally look at their future with the defying eyes of optimism and youth. How can it be that such themes as the absurdity and the meaninglessness of living and the absence of prospects, typical of modern existentialism, might become all of sudden “attractive”, when it is Beckett to speak rather that Eliot, for example? Besides, the plot of Waiting for Godot can’t be actually defined captivating: two men who keep on waiting for another man, who will never show up for two acts. That is all.
Nevertheless, the bare lines of the play seem to touch and charm their young souls in a very natural way. Oh yes, I have also thought that I might have just underestimated them. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe they were more sensitive and mature that I thought, but still I knew there was something I was missing. Then one day I understood. Do you want to have a clue? Here are a couple of lines from the play with only a little touch of modernity added:
Estragon:”Why will you never let me sleep?” 👿
Vladimir :”I felt lonely.” 😦 (from Waiting for Godot, Act 1)
Estragon :”You wanted to speak to me?” 😕
Vladimir : “I’ve nothing to tell you” 😮 (from Waiting for Godot, Act 1)
There it was: the bare, informal language of the play, actually recalled the lexicon employed in modern communication, the one my students have been fed with, since they were born. They immediately recognized it and loved it.
Yet, wait a minute……., Beckett ‘s use of language did not actually serve the purpose of communication at all, but rather the breakdown of communication. The dialogues, in fact, are only sketched, the words never result in actions and each character, who usually follows his own thoughts, seems to be perfectly aware that whatever he says, is just a way to fill his endless waiting. Somehow the ridiculous dialogues the protagonists are engaged with, are necessary to them to have the impression they exist and their mutual dependence confirms their existence. Therefore, if the language of modern communication resembles so much the sterile and ineffective one created by Beckett, I can’t help but wonder: what is the quality of our communication, since nowadays we have the habit of using tweets of 140 characters or sms of 160 to give voice to our thoughts? What can we communicate in such a short space? And moreover, haven’t you ever had the feeling that all this modern “communicative addiction” might be a sort of “mutual dependence” that “confirms our existence”?