’s Miss Julie And Beckett’s Waiting For Godot Essay, Research Paper
The motivations and behavior of key characters in Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot will be analyzed according to Eric Berne’s method of transactional analysis. Eric Berne deals with the psychology behind our transactions. Transactional analysis determines which ego state is implemented by the people interacting. There are three possibilities which are either parent, adult, or child. The key characters in Waiting for Godot are Vladimir and Estragon. Vladimir is the more intellectual of the two and Estragon is more emotional. Their ego states are always shifting from minute to minute. In Miss Julie the key characters are Jean and Miss Julie. Jean shifts his ego state according to his situation either to compliment the ego state of the person he is talking to or to exploit the situation. In the relationship between Miss Julie and Jean their ego states interchange as Miss Julie begins as the parent, then she falls so they are equal on the adult level and eventually she is on the bottom so Jean is on the top as parent ego state.
People are made with three basic ego states which are the parent, adult, and child. Some people have a dominant ego state and others are constantly changing. All parts are necessary for a well rounded personality. The child is linked with intuition, creativity, spontaneity, drive and enjoyment. The adult is the rational, objective and logical side which allows work to get done. This is the part of us that should be involved in difficult decision making because it weighs the pros and cons of the decision without bias. The parent is useful for actually raising children and for routine decisions that do not require the deductive reasoning of the adult. A transaction can be either complementary or crossed and at the same time simple or ulterior. A simple complementary transaction would be any transaction where the lines do not cross. It could be a transaction between psychological equals; these transactions are gossip (parent-parent), problem solving (adult-adult), or playing (child-child).
If the lines of communication in the transaction are crossed, the communication will cease unless one of the participants alters their ego state to compliment the ego state implemented by the other communicant. If the responses of the people interacting continue to cross they will no longer be communicating but instead there will be fruitless arguing. An example is “I can’t find my shoes do you know where they are?” response “why don’t you keep track of your things, you would lose your head if it wasn’t attached”. The question was an adult one but the response was parent to child so the lines are crossed. There was no positive that came out of the transaction and the conversation cannot be sustained.
Ulterior transactions are more complex and more than one ego stat is involved at one time by a participant. An ulterior transaction can be used to take advantage of a vulnerable ego state in someone else. An example is a car salesman sees a middle aged family man that appears to be having some sort of a midlife crisis. The car salesman shows him an expensive sports car and says ” young people love these flashy cars, but you look like more of a Lincon town car type”. The middle aged man then turns around and buys the expensive sports car. The salesman’s comments were both objective observations that were made by the adult. They could be received by either the adult or child of the middle aged man. If received by the adult it would steer the middle aged man to a car that would be more appropriate and practical for him and his family. Instead it is received by the child which in this case is dominant and vulnerable and causes the man to think “I’m still young this is as much a car for me as it is for anyone”.
In Waiting for GodotEstragon and Vladimir converse on all levels with each other. Through the play they are killing time while waiting for Godot. Estragon realizes that their existence is stagnant and he has trouble remembering things because of the repetition. In the second act he does not recall what happened in the first act. For him, remembering the day before would be like trying to remember a specific rain drop in a rain storm. Godot, the unseen character represents a hope of change that is to come. Their meeting with him is always delayed which defers their hope, but does not extinguish it because they agree to meet him again the next day. At some points they play with each other, this is an effective way to kill time. An example of them playing is when they are wondering what to do while waiting for Godot, Estragon comes up with the idea of hanging themselves. Vladimir says it will give them an erection and Estragon gets excited. They play around giving reasons why the other should be hanged first. Estragon says that Vladimir should be hanged first because he is heavier and the branch of the tree might break. If it doesn’t break for Vladimir there will be no trouble hanging him so they will both be dead. Whereas, if Estragon is hanged first and the branch supports his weight but is unable to support Vladimir he will be alone. Vladimir is more likely to take a parental role than Estragon. An example of this is when Estragon is attempting with great difficulty to remove his boots he asks for help. Vladimir lectures him by saying “Boots must be taken off every day I’m tired of telling you that. Why don’t you listen to me.”1
They also converse on an adult to adult level. An example of this is in act II they have an abstract conversation about thinking. They come up with the idea to question is to think and the road to enlightenment is a passive journey. Here is a portion of their adult dialog.
Vladimir: When you seek you hear
Estragon: You do
Vladimir: That prevents you from finding
Estragon: It does
Vladimir: That prevents you from thinking
Estragon: You think all the same 2
They meet a man named Pozzo and his slave Lucky. Pozzo is a rich man and Lucky is a former intellectual who is no longer able to think. Pozzo is constantly talking down to everyone, as he is firmly locked in the parent ego state. Almost every time Pozzo talks to Vladimir and Estragon, it is an independent speech because he always talks from the parent to child position and Vladimir and Estragon do not like to respond to him from the child level. When Estragon asks Pozzo an adult question which is why doesn’t Lucky put down his bags and Pozzo ignores the question a few times until Vladimir tells him he is being asked a question. He eventually answers after talking down to them a couple of times. Two examples of this are Pozzo saying
“Don’t interrupt me. If we all speak at once we’ll never get anywhere” and “why couldn’t you say so before”3 .
In Miss Julie Jean is the servant in the Count’s house. Throughout the play whenever the Count is mentioned Jean shrivels up with fear and is in the child ego state. Miss Julie, the count’s daughter is originally is in a position of authority over Jean because he is a servant in her house. Through the course of the story a reversal of roles is seen. It starts with Jean being in the child ego state while talking to Miss Julie to compliment the parent ego state that she talks to him from. Miss Julie was a very passionate woman and often would grab one of her servants to dance with. A combination of factors brought Jean and Miss Julie together. Some of these factors are being in the right place at the right time, her fianc? breaking off their engagement, her hormones and the atmosphere of a midsummer night. Once Jean has been with Miss Julie for a while he plays games with her to make her want to get with him. He does this after she was teasing him sexually but would not let him kiss her. He senses a strong romantic child in her and he exploits this by telling her a story he made up about him seeing her from across the gate to the estate and he desired to be with her. He said that he slept under an elder bush because he had remembered it could be fatal but he did not die, he only became very ill. He said he did this because he realized because of their class difference he could never have her, and she was a symbol of hopelessness of him ever climbing up from his low class. This story evokes sympathy and triggers her child which wants to rebel against the established order that says they can never get together. This strategy works as Jean ends up sleeping with Miss Julie.
In their relationship the tides turn from Miss Julie being the parent to them being equal to Jean being the parent. The ego states of Miss Julie and Jean will be looked at in chronological order as they rotate like on a wheel where Miss Julie starts out on top but ends up on the bottom with Jean on the opposite side of the wheel. Miss Julie is in a position of power over Jean and this causes her to talk to him as a child from a parent’s standpoint. An example of this is when Jean has something in his eyes Miss Julie says “…sit down and I’ll take it out. Sit still now, quite still! (she slaps his hands) Come, obey me!” “Sit still, will you! There! Now it’s gone. Kiss my hand and thank me.”4
As they continue to talk their conversation drifts into that of psychological equals on the adult level. At this point they begin to discuss their future. Jean gives the idea of going away “to Switzerland, to the Italian lakes!…” so he could start a hotel and she could be “the pearl of the establishment”. Jean is telling her stories of how great it would be as they discuss the feasibility of their budding plan. Miss Julie, in response to Jean’s grand plans says “They seem to me quite sensible but – just one question. A big project like that needs a lot of capital. Have you that?” Jean says that she would be able to find a backer if she went with him. Miss Julie says “I couldn’t. And I haven’t any money of my own.” Jean says “Then our whole plan collapses.” As they rationally discuss Jean’s plans they come to the conclusion that his plan is not possible to execute because of their lack of funds. 5
After their plans are shot down, Miss Julie pouts and becomes very childlike. She instantly drops from the adult ego state into the child and this prompts Jean to shift into the parent ego state. Miss Julie calls Jean a servant and lackey. Jean responds with “servant’s whore, lackey’s bitch, shut your mouth and get out of here. You dare stand there and call me foul..” Miss Julie becomes submissive “You’re right. Hit me, trample on me, I’ve deserved nothing better … help me out of this…” It is clear from preceding dialogue that Jean is now acting the parent after Miss Julie has fallen from her great height in social standing and also dropped to a child ego state. Right near the end of the play, Miss Julie is very submissive and childlike so Jean is very parent like with her. Unlike Miss Julie, Jean has not had an overhaul of his ego, but instead he just reacts to the ego states of the people talking to him. This can bee seen by his response to the count “It’s Jean milord. Yes, milord. Yes, milord. Immediately. At once, milord. Very good, my lord. In a half an hour.”6 He is still fearful and submissive towards the count while at the same time being authoritative from the parent ego state towards Miss Julie. Miss Julie wants to kill herself but needs to be told to do so by Jean. Jean ends up giving her a sharpened razor and telling her to go.
In conclusion, in Waiting for Godot Vladimir and Estragon are constantly shifting ego states from minute to minute. Sometimes they play like children and at other times they talk seriously on an adult level, and at other times they talk down to each other from the parent to child ego states. Pozzo is always talking down to everyone he comes into contact with. Unlike Jean in Miss Julie, Vladimir and Estragon do not readily shift their ego states to accommodate others such as Pozzo. Pozzo has no intention of doing anything but talk down to others, thus his conversation with Vladimir and Estragon starts and ends quickly because they are not on complimentary ego levels. Most times Pozzo talks it is an independent speech and seems he isn’t really directing his thoughts towards anyone in particular. Vladimir and Estragon do not stay in one ego state for a prolonged length of time, but are switching at random. In Miss Julie, Jean and Miss Julie’s ego states rotate like on a wheel where Miss Julie starts out on top as the parent but in the end the wheel has turned and she is the child on the bottom. Jean is like a chamaeleon when it comes to what ego state he is in. He adapts to the ego states of the people he is transacting with. He does this so that their ego states are complimentary and conversation is allowed to flow. He also manipulates Miss Julie’s emotions by appealing to the romantic child in her. It is Miss Julie’s fall from her high social status and her consequent fall to a childish ego state that makes Jean adapt his ego. She starts out thinking she is better than Jean because he is her servant. As they get closer she feels he is her equal so she talks to him as an adult from an adult standpoint. By the end when she has fallen from grace she feels so low that she is talking up to Jean and wants him to tell her what to do. All the while Jean is on the opposite side of the wheel that Miss Julie is on.
1. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, p 7
2. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, p 41
3. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, p 20-21
4. August Strindberg, Miss Julie, p116-117
5. August Strindberg, Miss Julie, p123
6. August Strindberg, Miss Julie, p145
1. Berne, Eric. Games People Play. Grove Press INC, New York Thirtieth printing 1966.
2. Strindberg, August. Plays: One , Miss Julie . Secer & Warberg Limited, Great Britain 1964.
3. Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. Grove Press INC 1956.