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In Samuel Beckett's play 'Waiting for Godot', Lucky is the slave of a character called Pozzo. Unlike the other characters in the play who talk compulsively,Lucky utters just two sentences in the play, one of which is extremely long. Lucky's speech is a monologue of non-sequitur which jars coherence at every level. What does the speech signify?

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Beckett himself, while directing the play, offered an explanation. He said of Lucky's speech that:

"The threads and themes of the play are being gathered together"

And that it's theme was:

"to shrink on an impossible earth under an indifferent heaven"

In his own notebooks, he divided the long, rambling monologue into three different sections, which are followed by critics when discussing the play.

In the first, Indifferent Heaven, Lucky discusses the nature of God, positing the divine force as one that is uncaring and disinterested. He says:

God … loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown

The implication being that while priests tell us of God's love, there is precious little evidence of it in the squalid, cruel world of humanity.

The second section Beckett called Dwindling man. The theme of this section is the failure of all humanities efforts to improve itself. In particular, Beckett attacks enlightenment values as a failure, with the resulting scientific advances being used to fuel awful wars and industrialisation.

The third section Earth abode of stones Lucky uses to describe an apocalyptic earth of death and darkness. Without a caring God and with the failure of enlightenment thinking, this is the only certain fate. In the end, the speech degenerates into complete incoherence, symbolic of the destruction of logical thought.

The speech as a whole, then, can be seen as a nihilistic dismissal of human effort, both rational and spiritual. This is, in some respects, reflective of the post-modern philosophy at the heart of the play. Post-modernism posits that absolute truth is unknowable which, in its most extreme form, would clearly result in chaos. It is also opposed to the enlightenment thinking of the modernists, who held up the scientific method as a gold standard for approaching universal truths.

Lucky's "thinking" then stands in contrast with that of the main protagonists of the play, Vladimir and Estragon, who, like scientists, try to give their life meaning through structure but end up wasting it, waiting for Godot.

References:

  • Lawrence Graver - Beckett Waiting for Godot - A Student Guide - 2004

  • The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett, Vol. I: Waiting for Godot - Edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson - 1993

  • Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot - Mark Taylor-Batty, Juliette Taylor-Batty - 2008

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