Social Issues In Waiting for Godot and Enduring Love

7 July 2016

Compare and Contrast the social issues which cause conflict in Waiting for Godot by Beckett and Enduring Loveby McEwan. Evaluate different readers’ views of the writers’ interpretations and discuss the impact of contexts. Social issues have long been a problem in our world, complete breakdown in communication can have disastrous consequences for society. Many wars, civil wars and uprisings have occurred as a cause of idealogical differences, but it has been through a social aspect, that those ideas were misconstrued or rejected (due to a difference in social opinion).

The same can be said for the social aspects in ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Enduring Love’, albeit on a smaller scale. Social issues are prevalent in both texts, this can be attributed to the style of writing used by Samuel Beckett and Ian McEwan, both of whom use allusory devices and utilise the in-communication of protagonists. Waiting for Godot is a 1952 play originally called ‘En Attendant Godot’, the play is widely viewed as a response to WW2. Enduring Love is a 1997 novel written by Ian McEwan and focuses on psychological issues in today?

Social Issues In Waiting for Godot and Enduring Love Essay Example

society, and how they impact on society. I intend to explore the social issues (the majority of which) that arise in the texts as a result of the protagonists inability to communicate. The characters’ state of mind is a major sub-plot intertwined in both Enduring Love and Waiting for Godot. The fact that all the characters are written as to possibly be mentally unhinged and anxiety ridden, this is hinted at through Estragon’s reaction to Vladimir’s perpetual questions,

‘Vladimir: The same lot as usual? Estragon: The same? I don’t know’. Ian McEwan has said, ‘the task of the artist is to find a form that accommodates the mess’ , which sums up Waiting for Godot I think. Continuing the theme of WW2 in Waiting for Godot, Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky are portrayed in erratic surroundings and the carnage of a society in combat with itself, as WW2 was.

WW2 was a war fought in a world without moral guidance, with protagonists showing the lack of an internal moral compass, and exhibiting trauma, loss of memory, much like soldiers in WW2. In Waiting for Godot, critiques suggest that Vladimir and Estragon are a pseudo-couple (specifically by Guy Christian Barnard). Schizophrenia affects social issues, with the bi-polarity of language used leads to a lack of meaningful communication between the two protagonists, ‘Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can’t you, once in a way’.

This re-enforces social conflict because having conversations with himself regularly is symptomatic of being mentally unstable or unhinged. Vladimir is the most compassionate protagonist in Waiting for Godot, he spends time contemplating emotion, unlike Estragon, and Pozzo, meaning that a more in-depth emotional side to Vladimir means Beckett has taken a idealogical step away from Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky meaning increased social friction, so an increased chance for social conflict.

This can be related to the social situation of the world at the time of the play’s writing, as people has been affected by WW2 two in different ways, some didn’t know what to do with their life after the war, and this concept, coupled by Beckett’s persistent use of gallows humour (the protagonists know they have no hope of evading what is to come) means the protagonists are seriously contemplating suicide. “Was I sleeping while others suffered?…..

Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries… but habit is deadener.. ” In Enduring Love, Jed Parry the ‘Jesus freak’ is too easily goaded, and this leads to Jed’s mood swings and the bipolarity of his actions, brought on by his de Clerambault’s Syndrome, (or as Jed would have it, Joe’s string of subliminal messages followed by his denial of any such things) this is displayed perfectly throughout the novel, giving Jed a Dr.

Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-esque split personality, this causes social conflict in the novel because his persona adopts two separate levels of morality. These schizophrenic tendencies lead to a lack of moral guidance in their world, leading them to become figuratively blindfolded by the harsh reality of their situation. Later on in the Enduring Love, Joe Rose becomes an unreliable narrator, this post-modern turn could be attributed to the increased stress and pressure in

Joe’s life, with him keeping his troubles with parry to himself, but eventually they spill out into his everyday life and he becomes obsessed with it, which in turn pushes Clarissa away. McEwan uses Joe’s position as a science writer to investigate ‘epistemology’, the science devoted ‘how we know things’, this is proven in the fact that Joe is hyper-aware of the power of the knowledge used in his recounting of events, ‘I’ve already marked my beginning…

‘, ‘the moment Logan hit the ground should have been the end of this story rather than one beginning I could have chosen’ Vladimir and Estragon are under pressure because of their ties to Godot, as they are unsure what to do and the possible consequences of their actions weighs heavily on their judgement, yet their human desire to travel means they are unfortunately stuck in turmoil and a stagnant social position results. “Estragon: Well, shall we go? Vladimir: Yes let’s go (They do not move)” Communication is a dwindling topic in both texts.

In Waiting for Godot communication is a sore point because the play is written as a response to WW2, a breakdown in communication signifies the war that had just occurred, and in Enduring Love Joe and Jed’s conflict means Joe becomes agitated and easily sidetracked, this means he doesn’t hold any conversation or line of enquiry, apart from his obsession with Jed Parry. Joe had tried to open up to Clarissa and tell her about his situation and his views, but she finds it all too incredulous, and acts rather immature about it, sticking her head in the proverbial sand.

Clarissa emanates the impression of being self-centred, as much of her dialogue is based around her needs, and her inability to realise that the stalking d?? le is real and not about her, ‘You even left the drawer open so I’d know when I came in…. So spell it out for me now, Joe. What are you trying to tell me? ‘ ,but then again, credit to Ian McEwan as his allusive style of writing, he does leave the reader wondering if Jed Parry and his delusions are actually real or imagined.

Clarrissa’s antics are contradictory to her literary love of the poet John Keats and romanticism, as she is dismissive, childish and doesn’t seem to care much for her and Joe’s relationship. Clarissa tries to follow in the footsteps of Keats, her values are of a romanticist nature, however actions follow a rather anti-romanticist path, as being a romanticist requires great deal of emotional expression, and as romanticism goes against social norms. Clarissa wants an idyllic life, yet she seems to be uninterested with the process of getting her dreams to become reality, her character is rather lazy in that respect.

In Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Lucky epitomise the lack of communication in the novel. Estragon is confident one moment and ready to hang himself the next, with Vladimir saving him from himself. Lucky is a silent character for the majority of the acts, but when he does speak, everything comes out as a garbled, jumbled mess of an opinion, re-enforcing the lack of meaningful and comprehensible conversation. .. of a personal god quaquaquaqua with a white beard quaquaquaqua… ” Didi and Gogo are in a sort of social purgatory. They are without reliable memory, and without a reason for being.

Waiting for Godot is their only reason to live and it soon takes over their lives and becomes their sole purpose for being, but, as we don’t know whether Godot is real or imaginary, let alone knowing this transpires that the main protagonists reasons for being are as a result of nothing, but ‘Nothing is more real than nothingness’ (Democritus). Vladimir and Estragon are unable to provide for themselves in their barren landscape of a setting, this leads to social conflict and stagnation as they have nothing to do except sit around, moan, contemplate suicide and Wait for Godot.

The protagonists materialistic needs lead to their impoverishment and therefore social conflict. When Pozzo and Lucky turn up, it’s a welcome break from the monotonous life that the two (assumed) ‘beggars’ lead. So, their materialistic impoverishment is satisfied temporarily (although their mental impoverishment continues), ?stragon: Even 10 francs would be welcome Vladimir: We are not beggars! Estragon: Even five Vladimir: (To Estragon indignantly) That’s enough! ”

Social conflict is exhibited most clearly in the relationship between the protagonists in Waiting for Godot, Lucky and his ‘Master’, Pozzo, their relationship can be viewed as an extreme version of the relationship Vladimir and Estragon share, and the transition between the two relationships could come about as a result of the socio-intellectual conflict between Estragon and Vladimir, as either Vladimir’s impatience with Estragon’s intellect could finally drive him stir crazy, or Estragon’s impatience with Vladimir’s intellect could mean he turns nasty with jealousy of Vladimir (that coupled with the stagnancy of their situation), although they’re relationship is a two-way partnership at the time in which the play is set. This isn’t the case in Enduring Love, in that novel there is more of a clash of ideologies between Religion, science and the arts, Hegel, a 19th century German philosopher believed that ,’art, religion and philosophy are the bases for the highest spiritual development’. These three aspects of life can be representative of Enduring Love’s main protagonists.

In Waiting for Godot, the rope around Lucky’s neck is his tie to Pozzo, (although Lucky seems to have developed Stockholm Syndrome) whereas Didi and Gogo’s tie is not only their possible schizophrenic personalities, but their willingness to wait for Godot too. Lucky’s enslavement leads to ‘a running sore’ or what looks like a ‘goitre’ around his neck, as a result of the rope, much like Didi and Gogo’s. This causes conflict because these physical injuries that the protagonists suffer are a reminder of the oppression felt by them in an anti-climactic continuum of an existence, as they persist to try to uncover a meta-physical answer for their existence, and they are appalled by it, ‘It’s a scandal! ‘ Vladimir says, “Vladimir: After having sucked all the good out of him you

chuck him away like a . . . like a banana skin. Really… ” Their circumlocutory universe gives them no hope, the protagonists are helplessly caught in the vicious circle of life, ‘they must not begin to live because once you do it ends’ ( Eugene Ionesco). The idea of their universe being circumlocutory is backed up by the perception of purpose. This is influential to the social aspect of both novels, as the way the protagonists view themselves has an impact on their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings to the other characters. This, ultimately, makes an impact on the readers impressions of said protagonists ‘Estragon: Was it not there yesterday?

Vladimir: Yes, of course it was there. Do you not remember? We nearly hanged ourselves from it. But you wouldn’t. Do you not remember? Estragon: You dreamt it. ‘ Albert Camus’ theory of Existentialism has shaped the way people view our situation on Earth, and Waiting for Godot follows a Sartrean Existentialism movement, developed by Jean-Paul Sartre, it typifies man as being without a purpose in a world devoid of meaning, unlike a utensil, which is made for a specific purpose or purposes. So in terms of Vladimir and Estragon, ‘existence precedes essence’. Philosopher Martin Heidegger’s aphorism states that, ‘As soon as a man is born, he is old enough to die’.

This perspective causes social conflict in Enduring Love because all the protagonists are coming at situations from different angles, with regards to beliefs and views on matters present in the novel, such as their love for each other, ‘the way you turned away from me, rejected, stunned by my refusal to recognise in that first instance our love. ‘. Social conflict is the struggle for agency or power in society, different groups compete for resource, sometimes clashing over the same thing, this happens in Enduring Love, everyone seems to be out to pursue their own interests and is self centred. From a Marxist perspective, because as Jed comes from privileged background, he holds the seat of authority, or at least he thinks he does, trying to coerce Joe to do what he wants. So when he tries to use his power to get what he wants, he flexes his authority but encounters resistance from lower socially placed protagonists.

Pozzo is clearly the highest socially placed protagonist in Waiting for Godot, this is shown through his servant/slave Lucky and his possessive style of social interaction. “Pozzo:….. [Pause. Pointing to Lucky] My Lucky! “Pozzo: [Sobbing] he used to be so kind… so helpful… and entertaining… my good angel… Social classes create social conflict in both novels because lower classed citizens tend to have distaste for higher-classed citizens, and vice-versa, but not as to say WW2 was a class war though, because it wasn’t. This is apparent in Waiting for Godot because, after Pozzo’s arrival with Lucky on a leash, Vladimir shows great dislike for Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky, repeating multiple times, ‘Let’s go’ in an attempt to get himself and Estragon away from Pozzo. ‘ Vladimir: To treat a man… …

like that… I think that … no… a human being… no… it’s a scandal! ‘ In Enduring Love, Parry is the protagonist of the highest class, and also the protagonist whom the other protagonists are eventually against, this could be representative of a class war to Marxists. Parry says, ‘as soon as I came into money and the house, I gave up the job and moved in’. This could cause social conflict as parry could be interpreted as to be boasting of his position, and because Joe’s life centres around his scientific interests and work, there would be nothing to converse with Parry about, the two protagonists would be at social-loggerheads with each other.

In conclusion, social conflicts have major grounds for debate as they can potentially impact on every topic discussed, but it’s how the authors of both texts have made it a key topic of conversation is vitally important. Social conflicts have their limitations however and they don’t extend their reach through all topics as they would become inconsequential. Samuel Beckett and Ian McEwan use illusory devices very well, leaving readers with different viewpoints, and leaving some completely baffled. Using class societies are seen as unjust – a major cause of conflict, coupled with mental instability lead to continuous unendurable suffering for some sadistic unknowable purpose.

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