The Purpose Of Human Life Essay Research

The Purpose Of Human Life Essay, Research Paper

The purpose of human life is an unanswerable question. It seems

impossible to find an answer because we don’t know where to begin looking

or whom to ask. Existence, to us, seems to be something imposed upon us by

an unknown force. There is no apparent meaning to it, and yet we suffer

as a result of it. The world seems utterly chaotic. We therefore try to

impose meaning on it through pattern and fabricated purposes to distract

ourselves from the fact that our situation is hopelessly unfathomable.

“Waiting for Godot” is a play that captures this feeling and view of the

world, and characterizes it with archetypes that symbolize humanity and its

behaviour when faced with this knowledge. According to the play, a human

being’s life is totally dependant on chance, and, by extension, time is

meaningless; therefore, a human+s life is also meaningless, and the

realization of this drives humans to rely on nebulous, outside forces,

which may be real or not, for order and direction.

The basic premise of the play is that chance is the underlying factor

behind existence. Therefore human life is determined by chance. This is

established very early on, when Vladimir mentions the parable of the two

thieves from the Bible. “One of the thieves was saved. It’s a reasonable

percentage” (Beckett, 8). The idea of “percentage” is important because

this represents how the fate of humanity is determined; it is random, and

there is a percentage chance that a person will be saved or damned.

Vladimir continues by citing the disconcordance of the Gospels on the story

of the two thieves. “And yet…how is it – this is not boring you I hope

- how is it that of the four Evangelists only one speaks of a thief being

saved. The four of them were there – or thereabouts – and only one speaks

of a thief being saved” (Beckett, 9). Beckett makes an important point

with this example of how chance is woven into even the most sacred of texts

that is supposed to hold ultimate truth for humanity. All four disciples

of Chirst are supposed to have been present during his crucifixion and

witnessed the two thieves, crucified with Jesus, being saved or damned

depending on their treatment of him in these final hours. Of the four,

only two report anything peculiar happening with the thieves. Of the two

that report it, only one says that a thief was saved while the other says

that both were damned. Thus, the percentages go from 100%, to 50%, to a

25% chance for salvation. This whole matter of percentages symbolizes how

chance is the determining factor of existence, and Beckett used the Bible

to prove this because that is the text that humanity has looked to for

meaning for millenia. Even the Bible reduces human life to a matter of

chance. On any given day there is a certain percent chance that one will

be saved as opposed to damned, and that person is powerless to affect the

decision. “The fate of the thieves, one of whom was saved and the other

damned according to the one of the four accounts that everybody believes,

becomes as the play progresses a symbol of the condition of man in an

unpredictable and arbitrary universe” (Webb, 32).

God, if he exists, contributes to the chaos by his silence. The very

fact that God allows such an arbitrary system to continue makes him an

accomplice. The French philosopher Pascal noted the arbitrariness of life

and that the universe worked on the basis of percentages. He advocated

using such arbitrariness to one’s advantage, including believing in God

because, if he doesn’t exist, nobody would care in the end, but if he does,

one was on the safe side all along, so one can’t lose. It is the same

reasoning that Vladimir uses in his remark quoted above, “It’s a reasonable

percentage.” But it is God’s silence throughout all this that causes the

real hopelessness, and this is what makes “Waiting for Godot” a tragedy

amidst all the comical actions of its characters: the silent plea to God

for meaning, for answers, which symbolizes the plea of all humanity, and

God’s silence in response. “The recourse to bookkeeping by the philosopher

[Pascal] no less than the clownish tramp shows how helpless we are with

respect to God+s silence” (Astro, 121). Either God does not exist, or he

does not care. Whichever is the case, chance and arbitrariness determine

human life in the absence of divine involvement.

The world of “Waiting for Godot” is one without any meaningful

pattern, which symbolizes chaos as the dominating force in the world.

There is no orderly sequence of events. A tree which was barren one day

is covered with leaves the next. The two tramps return to the same place

every day to wait for Godot. No one can remember exactly what happened the

day before. Night falls instantly, and Godot never comes. The entire

setting of the play is meant to demonstrate that time is based on chance,

and therefore human life is based on chance.

Time is meaningless as a direct result of chance being the underlying

factor of existence. Hence there is a cyclic, albeit indefinite, pattern

to events in “Waiting for Godot.” Vladimir and Estragon return to the same

place each day to wait for Godot and experience the same general events

with variations each time. It is not known for how long in the past they

have been doing this, or for how long they will continue to do it, but

since time is meaningless in this play, it is assumed that past, present,

and future mean nothing. Time, essentially is a mess. “One of the

seemingly most stable of the patterns that give shape to experience, and

one of the most disturbing to see crumble, is that of time” (Webb, 34-35).

The ramifications of this on human existence are symbolized by the

difference between Pozzo and Lucky in Act I and in Act II. Because time

is based on chance and is therefore meaningless, human life is treated

arbitrarily and in an almost ruthless manner, and is also meaningless. In

Act I Pozzo is travelling to the market to sell Lucky, his slave. Pozzo

is healthy as can be, and there seems to be nothing wrong. Lucky used to

be such a pleasant slave to have around, but he

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