The constant waiting and uncertainty that run throughout the entire play reminded me of purgatory. While I’ve never been there, every depiction I’ve been exposed to says that it is very bland and provides an unsettling sense of fluidity between this world and God’s kingdom. The lack of stage direction contributed to this uncertainty. Where should Vladimir stand when he is talking with Estragon? Should he be sitting or standing? All these questions flew through my mind.
The tree provides an interesting dichotomy to the purgatory comparison. While purgatory is full of unknowns, the tree where they hung themselves could be the tree of knowledge. However, with that interpretation, more questions arise. Since they hung themselves, do they finally meet Godot? Who does Godot represent? Could he represent God?
Keeping all these things in mind, the most blatant realization I came to after reading this play is Beckett wrote it as a satire in response to Catholicism. Look at how Estragon talks about the Bible and the Holy Land and the brevity of the dialogue. Vladimir and Estragon bounce back and forth faster than Josh Lyman and Jed Bartlett do in The West Wing.
That sarcastic tone can be seen throughout the entire play. In Act I, Vladimir and Estragon are talking in their standard fast-paced dialogue when Vladimir brings up a mysterious “him”, causing Estragon to question what he is talking about. He talks about how the Savior didn’t save anyone. That cynicism is echoed throughout the Act.
Beckett wrote this play to upset people. He knew that the buzz surrounding it would get people into the theatre, but he was hoping that they would find it so offensive that they would leave. Catholics found the play incredibly offensive and were very upset that it was put on in various theatres. Beckett was incredibly successful in alienating an entire religion. However, the one thing about Catholics: They’re really good at laughing at themselves. And they definitely got a good chuckle out of Waiting for Godot.