Finding the purpose of life has been a central question since the time of great Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. Some proclaimed that the purpose of life was to achieve happiness, while others insisted that living peacefully was the way to enlightenment. In more recent times, new concepts like nihilism and absurdism counter these seemingly buoyant perspectives of life. Samuel Beckett explores these notions with characters in his play, Waiting for Godot. The juxtaposition of contrasting character archetypes amplifies the theme of existentialism and ultimately provides multiple viewpoints on the purpose of life. The characters Vladimir and Estragon present opposing archetypes that compare optimism and pessimism. Vladimir is the more expectant of the duo and maintains his determination to wait for Godot. In the second act when Pozzo and Lucky return, but Pozzo is blind and in need of assistance, Vladimir insists that he and Estragon help him in a valiant speech:VLADIMIR: Let us not waste time in idle discourse! Pause. Vehemently. Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned to us! (Beckett 70)The stage directions and punctuation of multiple exclamation points reveal the heroic tone of the monologue, which contributes to the expectant and eager characterization of Vladimir. This shows the perspective on life that revolves around living life to the fullest by aiding others. The repetitive meaning of the sentences throughout the monologue shows how Beckett is deliberately trying to convey the tenacity and graciousness of Vladimir’s personality. He acknowledges their poor situation but is willing to remain constructive and help Pozzo. The monologue also affirms that Vladimir is searching for a purpose, which he deduces is to aid the fallen Pozzo. This calls into question the moral issue of assisting the man who belittles and tortures another, while simultaneously making the audience establish whether Vladimir or Estragon is morally correct. Reflecting on these ethical codes shows the audience a perspective on human existence that focuses on existing to serve others. Vladimir also persists that the pair must “make the most” (70) of their lives and that they will finally be worth something when he is explaining to Estragon why they should help. This shows that he believes existence is meant to be enjoyed and to provide fulfillment. Vladimir mentions self-worth, which demonstrates a reason for existence.His optimism is contested with Estragon’s pessimistic and hopeless attitude for human subsistence. When Vladimir is telling the story of the two thieves, Estragon becomes irritable and demeaning:VLADIMIR: One out of four. Of the other three, two don’t mention any thieves at all and the third says that both of them abused him.ESTRAGON: Who?VLADIMIR: What?ESTRAGON: What’s all this about? Abused who?VLADIMIR: The Saviour.ESTRAGON: Why?VLADIMIR: Because he wouldn’t save them.ESTRAGON: From hell?VLADIMIR: Imbecile! From death.ESTRAGON: I thought you said hell.VLADIMIR: From death, from death.ESTRAGON: Well what of it?VLADIMIR: Then the two of them must have been damned.ESTRAGON: And why not?VLADIMIR: But one of the four says that one of the two was saved.ESTRAGON: Well? They don’t agree and that’s all there is to it…ESTRAGON: Who believes him?VLADIMIR: Everybody. It’s the only version they know.ESTRAGON: People are bloody ignorant apes. (5)This constant questioning by Estragon identifies the bleak attitude of his character. His pessimism is exaggerated by sharp contrast to the eagerness and excitement of Vladimir. Vladimir answers his questions abruptly, which makes Estragon seem suspicious and annoyed as he continues to challenge his friend. Vladimir’s irritation with Estragon shows that he believes his story has a meaning and purpose that they are supposed to live by. Estragon responds by debunking and dismissing his enthusiasm and makes Vladimir question his own faith as shown by him correcting himself when he mentions death in place of hell. His mistake in telling the story showcases the blind following of a deity, which is generated by Estragon’s doubtful character. It is also important to note that neither character carries more weight with the audience than the other. Both characters have the same amount of ideas and respond to each other’s ideas in an equal manner. This is essential to the play because, without this key component, the ambiguity of the purpose of life diminishes, and it answers the fundamental question that Beckett is asking. Vladimir and Estragon are supposed to be interchangeable because the audience is supposed to agree with either character, not only one. Another important character archetype is the slave, Lucky. His name is severely ironic because of his low social status and abusive treatment by his superior. This is a comment made by Beckett that states despite his situation, Lucky is better off than the rest of the characters. Lucky only speaks once throughout the entire play, and when he does so, it is incoherent and manic. He acts in an unpredictable manner and is treated more like an animal than a human. When Lucky is forced to think, he states:LUCKY: Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing… (33-34).This disjointed rambling shows how Lucky is able to think, but not in a coherent way. The confusion provides insight into Lucky’s view on the purpose of life, which conveys a message of living for a God that punishes people for unknown reasons. This is enhanced by the repetition of the word “unknown” since it adds to the disorientation of the monologue. The ironic concept that Lucky is more fortunate than the rest of the characters represents the existential view that consciousness is not necessary for life. Lucky has every aspect of his life controlled, which means he has guarantees and does not have to decide anything for himself. The idea that human existence can be instinctive with no purpose is exemplified by Lucky’s brutal management and ironic name.Pozzo, the direct antithesis of Lucky, also reinforces the theme of existentialism. Even though Pozzo is authoritative and cruel, he is blind in the second act and becomes virtually helpless. When Vladimir and Estragon question him about Lucky for the second time, Pozzo explodes:POZZO: suddenly furious Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time? It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?…(80)The dictatorial characterization of Pozzo is still present in Act II, but his arrogant and superficial demeanor is lessened by his blindness. He has become more disheartened and produces another frame of reference regarding human existence. His quote directly correlates to ideas of Nihilism, the belief that life is meaningless, which shows the rippling effect of Lucky’s lack of consciousness. Although Lucky lives in slave-like conditions at the hands of Pozzo, Pozzo still considers life to be meaningless when is it clear he lives a more luxurious life. The pretension of his archetype contrasted with the unawareness of Lucky’s archetype promotes the idea that existence is futile and has no purpose. The characters Vladimir, Estragon, Lucky and Pozzo display varying views regarding existentialism. It is vital to understand all ideas of human existence presented in Waiting for Godot, but it is of more importance to develop one’s own ideas about the subject. In order to live the life intended for a person, they must consider their own purpose and choose for themselves who and what to believe. 


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