Texting like Godot

godotbeckettIn 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.

8Nevertheless, 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.

family gatheringYet, 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”?


36 thoughts on “Texting like Godot

  1. With your last sentence you’ve summed up Waiting for Godot precisely as it struck me nearly half a century ago when I first saw it as a student — I converse, therefore I am.
    Must read this again — it’s been far too long. Thanks for the reminder Stefy!

    • Thank you Chris. What really strikes me,whenever I read the artists of this generation, is their bare interpretation of the present which brings to a precise vision of our time as it is. Amazing and sad at the same time.

      • Good art of whatever period has the capacity to speak about the present, our present. Mediocre art in any medium rarely has lasting relevance except as an historical curiosity, appealing just to a few specialists.

        On a slightly different tack, there’s something about existential art that can be a little too bleak for some people, who might prefer the safety and warmth of familiar tropes rather than having their raison d’etre questioned.

  2. Instant gratification for a visual generation means short attention span. Those who sleep with android at hand is not waiting for real communication but the thrill of being part of a faceless circle of friends who in real terms mean nothing. The absurdity of modern man who has all gadgets for his convenience without being edified in soul was quite a startling piece in Beckett’s time. Now and then his lines soar. For instance the line, ‘Between the cradle and grave the air id full of our tears.. But habit is a great deadener..’ I am quoting from memory. Now the emphasis for the millennials is different.

    • I agree with each word you wrote. The new generations in particular are thus growing inattentive, shallow and weak. They are hungry for that something, but they don’t have the patience and the will to work for it.

  3. Stefy your post intrigues me. There is so much discussion about how technology and social media is obliterating our society. Using the example of my own adult kids, my husband and I and now even my Mom in her eight decade, texting and communicating more often in smaller amount of words has increased our connectedness. I am not saying this is a replacement for face to face interaction, just a positive aspect.

    • You know what? I found this comment in my spam !!!!, Well Sue, technology gives us many opportunities of communication and this is great, just think about our meeting thanks to blogging. But at least, we make a communicative effort which takes more than 160 characters. Kids ( and adults) nowadays seem to be lost without their smartphones. It is really a sad sight to see, as an example, people sitting in a restaurant, each looking at its androids or tablet.Being together and lonely at the same time. :/

      • I have had a few folks say my comments have needed up in their spam recently. I am hoping it is not a larger message!
        Balance seems to be the key with technology. I know myself I am pretty hooked on it and have to make sure it’s a tool and not an addiction.

  4. Stefy, I think that communication (words) reflect reality of life (students think less and often have nothing to say). In american universities students are under influence of professors who don’t teach them to think (they teach students to follow professors’ ideas about everything).

      • It is scary and it is happening in all developed countries.
        The less people think the easier to lead them to vote, to demonstrate, to “occupy”, to request something, to go to war. You can see it in USA and in Russia and in Ukraine.

  5. Thanks Stefania … The thing about Beckett’s language is its incredibly allusive precision and though rarely properly credited its humour – something to do with his irishness which in many ways is the key to le grand Sam. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox which is sure to feature Beckett themed posts.

  6. Great post Stefy…
    I think Godot represents the arrival of a new God, after the crisis of society and God ´s Death, as Nietzsche vaticinated…
    And, later on Dostoievsky said: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted”

    Thanks for sharing…
    Best regards

    Aquileana 😛

  7. Haha, Mrs. Etinkerbel, loved the post.(Sorry about the Mrs. But at the end of the day you are a teacher….plus it sounds sexy) 🙂 Put a smile on my face. I love how you mix hardcore literature to make a modern point.

    Never heard of the writers but found it fascinating what you said about them.

    About people now a days, I think there will be suicide on a mass level if you took aways the internet, iphones, ipads, all technology for just one day. And you are right when you said mutual dependence that confirms our existence. I couldn´t agree more. On one hand you do meet very interesting people through this social media, people I can learn from if it wasn´t because I have a 10 year old rusty Mackintosh. On the other hand, I´m unable to be on wassup constantly or with an ipad or iphone. I find it distracting expecting to receive a text or watching a movie and suddenly you receive a notice you have received and email. I know one person that will actually get mad at me because I won´t respond to her or his emails inmediately. I do have to get into the yahoo account and I also like to eat in peace and watch a movie in the afternoon for an hour and a half. Then I get to my own writing and the blogging and the reading. But what´s up with this urgency people, specially the generation before me have with this inmediate feedback. Still remember the good old times when on Thursday night we would say “meet you Friday at 7 p.m in front of the grocery” Period, no more talking until the next day.

    • I have with technology that kind of relationship that could be defined between love and hatred. I particularly hate mobiles, which have stolen my freedom. The freedom of doing what I wanna do without having the trouble of finding a justification if it is off or I don’t feel like answering. Mobiles are terrible devices that control people’s lives.

      • Tell me about it. This girl I talk to, gets mad if I don´t respond in the second to one of her messages. What´s up with nowadays, I don´t want to have the phone near me the whole day just to stay alert if a message comes through,and I actually don´t have it around with me. I think it is an addiction for people. They want immediate feedback, immediate. People should chill out a bit. If I was president of the world, and I will be one day, I will make it a law for people to use phones one day yes another day no.

      • Piece of advice : do not allow anybody to control you, particularly with that malefic device.I’m not jocking if I tell that whenever I don’t have my mobile with me I feel free…..and happy. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Communication of past and present time | Myat Myat Thinn

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