Waiting For Godot and The Waste Land

The end of WWII put an end to Hitler’s power but could not cancel what he had done. People became painfully aware of the nature of Nazism and the scope of the Holocaust. They started to realize the potential of science capable of producing the atomic bomb which had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with devastating consequences. A repressive totalitarian regime continued through Stalinism and the Cold War rapidly developed between the capitalist countries of the west and the communist countries of the east.

Man’s place in the world had therefore been disrupted and was no longer felt as sound. The first part of the 20th century saw two wars which left millions of dead, caused economic recession and destroyed many cities, towns and villages. Literature reflected people’s shock. Wwi annihilated a generation of young men and left Europe in a state of devastation. It was a shattering experience which crushed the faith in progress, the social system and the validity of its institutions. The yeas after WWI were a kind of limbo, then in 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting a shocking and inhuman war.

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Beckett’s WFG gave powerful expression to modern man’s despair in his search for meaning in life. The Waste Land successfully expresses the artist’s disillusionment with the modern world and is profoundly affected by the shocking experience of World War I. The poet sees only ruins and desolation around him as a result of the decay and spiritual loss that followed WWI. The central metaphor of the Waste Land refers to sterility, emptiness, aridity and impotence. The spiritual dryness of modern life is reflected through a lack of belief – whether religious or political – that can give meaning to everyday life.

The positivistic faith in progress that sustained the early 20th century was shattered by the first WW, that left the country in a disillusioned and cynical mood. , leading to a feeling of frustration. The images of modern decadence depicted by Eliot in The Waste Land, reflecting the ghastly situation in Europe in the post-war years are paralleled by the setting in WFG. In both The Waste Land and WFG the present world is peopled by lost, alienated characters. The general tone is one of anxiety. In the general sense of decadence, man waits for redemption or a saviour.

It reflects the sense of collapse in the values of western civilization and spiritual desolation. The possibility of regeneration and salvation is only hoped but never reached. WFG has no development in time, to hint at the absence of past and future. The setting is a country road and a bare tree. A traditional plot is lacking as well as characters supplied with a clear personality. It has no action, for it is completely static, and also language is stylized, deprived of all communicative richness. Therefore the economy and simplicity of both style and staging directions refer to the author’s pessimistic vision of human life.