"We " re headed for collapse, if you want my opinion, Missy. I can see it in the fallin' off of the quality of vagrants. There was a time you could find real good company in almost any jungle you'd pick, men who could talk, men who'd read a book now and then; and now, what do you find, a lot of dirty little guttersnipes no decent tramp would want to associate with. Well, it's been that way all through history".
In Kosovska Mitrovica during February 2001, the city library, after 130 years of work no longer exists. More than 11 thousand books in Serbian language were destroyed, recycled as old paper at the Factory of Waste Paper in Vladicin Han. Any books regardless of language with topics related to Serbian culture were not spared. Luckily by pure chance, the last bundle to be thrown into the melting pot fell apart saving around a thousand books.
It is alleged that the present director Mr. Harjrullah Mustafa, who is an ethnic Albanian is responsible for the destruction of the books in an attempt to eradicate the Serbian culture. This is evidence supporting that the destruction of cultures continues today. We have seen the effects of civilization's deterioration in the West. With the collapse of values, what remains is a mass of hollow men falling away from articulation into the abyss of uncertainty.
Christian traditions of 1900 years has dissolved into nothing. Values that once determined behaviour, motivated the weak to be strong, and encouraged right from wrong have become nonexistent. Men lack activity; conversations are bleak; time stands still. Without a center to provide a strong foundation, things fall apart. Without a God and pronounced values, cultures collapse.
Total collapse into meaninglessness would never be conceived as a possibility of a creature made in His image. Values that once flowed from the heaven's now flow barren with no chance of revival. Heaven will not direct no more. With the collapse of values mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The truth of this predicament is clearly illustrated in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The author presents this collapse by his characters lack of activity, absurd and meaningless conversations, and their treatment of time.
The collapse of values is expressed by the inactivity of the characters in Waiting for Godot. His central characters, Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for Godot, of whom they know little. Estragon himself admits that he may never recognize Godot saying, "Personally I wouldn't know him if I ever saw him". The rest of the story follows with the two main characters waiting, without instruction or guidance just to "wait til we know exactly how we stand", says Vladimir. Albert Camus believed that boredom or waiting, which is essentially the breakdown of routine or habit, causes the individual to think. He believed that attempting to answer these rhetorical questions of identity could drive someone to the point of insanity".
We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression that we exist?" Waiting in the play induces boredom that is illustrated by the mundane repetition of actions. The two tramps repetitively inspect their empty hats and attempt to pass the time playing games and entertaining themselves. Baseless optimism; positive pretending; false hope; they wait. The opening of the play reveals a poor homeless tramp struggling desperately to pull his boots off. One foot is apparently swollen and sore, and he struggles in vain. That activity took a while to carry out, and after finally removing the boot, his partner plays with his hat and notes there's "Nothing to be done".
These scenes collaborate to pursue the drift toward confusion. Man has no purpose, existence seems to be something imposed upon us by some unknown force. The world seems utterly chaotic, and though there is no apparent meaning to it, the characters suffer as a result of it. As time passes, Vladimir and Estragon quarrel, make up, contemplate suicide, try to sleep, entertain each other with stories, eat a carrot and gnaw on some chicken bones. Their pathetic attempts to fabricate a purpose all aim to distract themselves from the fact their situation is hopelessly unfathomable.
It is unquestionable that the characters in Beckett's play are simply low in every aspect of human activity. The individual has no place, modern man has no voice and is lacking in substance and will. Both characters are aware of different choices they can make but are hesitant, anxious, and generally inactive, as shown at the end of Act I when they decide to leave but are immobile. Throughout the play, Vladimir and Estragon remain stupidly cheerful, they act rather comical and their pointless activities make their hollowness apparent. T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men", describes a world distant and terrifying. No man can withstand the immense pressure of a mass society, and the timidity puts him into a paralyzed trance. The two tramps do nothing; their lives are futile; their work is barren.
The setting of the play mirrors the barren wasteland of modern men. It is home to a herd of sheep in search of nothing, with nowhere to go. Values drive behaviour, without a strong sense of duty, actions are bleak and the fall from virtuous conduct is inevitable. This is the collapse of values, two tramps returning to the same place, every day to wait for Godot, who never comes. They merely deflate.
Without values, the center cannot hold; without meaning, conversations become dull. The low caliber of dialogue in the play shows empty men amidst a paralyzing sea of fear. There is utter confusion and it is seen in the characters inability to complete sentences, repetition of phrases and words, rhetorical or unanswered questions and their absurd vocabulary. Estragon and Vladimir continually subside into the futility of their situation, reiterating the phrase, "Nothing to be done". Vladimir also resolves with the notion that life is futile, or nothing is to be done.
They back out from suicide saying, "Don't let's do anything. It's safer". Together the decide to fill the emptiness and silence with cheap entertainment. "It " ll pass the time", explains Vladimir when he offers to tell the story of the Crucifixion.
"That passed the time", he says after the first departure of Pozzo and Lucky. Life becomes a game to them, passing back ideas in order to stop themselves from thinking or contemplating too deeply and escaping the pain of waiting. "That's the idea, let's make a little conversation", suggests Estragon. Beckett deliberately employs the repetition of themes, speech and action to highlight the futility and habit of life. In the second act, they admit "we are unable of keeping silent". Throughout the play the characters all seem to not recognize the past, as they constantly ask questions such as, "What did we do yesterday?" Their world is fragmented, submerged with vague recollections of culture and the past.
For example, Estragon remembers the Bible with uncertainly. "I remember the maps with of the Holy Land. Colored they were". The lack of knowledge and dull conversation shows the breakdown of culture and tradition in the twentieth century. The tradition of the West has been shattered and the culture destroyed.
The effects of political reforms, such as communism, Marxism, and science has obliterated society's belief in the church. Nietzsche declared the "death of God", as he felt that religion no longer offered a suitable framework of living. Either God does not exist, or he does not care. Whichever is the case, chance and luck determines human life in the absence of divine involvement. Estragon and Vladimir's uncertainty mirrors the uncertainty of living in the modern world. Estragon's constant inquiring of, "You " re sure it was here?
... You " re sure it was this evening?" Out of the uncertainty of waiting, Vladimir becomes aware with certainty that they are waiting, thinking with clarity, .".. what do we do now that we " re happy... go on waiting... waiting... let me think... it's coming... go on waiting. "Estragon and Vladimir talk to each other and share ideas, but its they regularly interrupt one another wit their own thoughts. Estragon admits, "I can't have been listening", and Vladimir says, "I don't' understand", this displays the failures of communication.
Conversations do exists but the arrangement of words, and the silences seem to punctuate conversations that represent the void, emptiness between people. Lucky's breakdown speech and final collapse into silence represents the ultimate response to the chaos, randomness and meaningless of the universe: silence. Time is meaningless in Waiting for Godot, there is a cyclic, albeit indefinite pattern where the past, present and future mean nothing. Time, essentially is a mess.
Estragon may have been a poet before, but he is not content to quote scripture in his own rendition saying, "Hope deferred maketh the something sick", the something being the heart. Time erodes the memory, and deteriorates into a cycle of events that do not aspire but simply stand still. The pattern of time appears to be this way as opposed to linear. Linear time seems to have broken down, as events do not develop with inevitable climaxes historically. The boy returns with the same message, Godot never comes and tomorrow never seems to arrive. Vladimir mentions that, "Time has stopped".
Estragon and Vladimir ad moving relentlessly towards a presumably unobtainable event, withing their finite existence, with a continually receding end. Estragon sums it up saying, "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" Time is equivalent to what is announced in the title: the act of waiting. Yet, it mysteriously starts up again each day as it returns to the beginning. Nothing is completed because nothing can be completed. The inherent meaninglessness of a world based on chance degenerates human life into something that is worthless and can be toyed by fortune. Pozzo becomes blind and has no recollection of the day before, and even claims that Lucky has always been mute, even though Lucky at the previous meeting, gave a long philosophical discourse when commanded to "think".
The disregard for human life is a result of not having any values. One who does not sanctify the lives of others cannot possibly make something of their own. We sink down to the low, and become slaves to ourselves. Human life is treated arbitrarily and in an almost ruthless manner, meaningless. Jean Paul Sartre declared that human beings require a rational basis for their lives but are unable to achieve one, and thus human life is a futile passion.
Vladimir rests with the notion that life is futile, or nothing to be done. All human endeavor is futile due to the collapse of values. Mankind achieves nothing, life will finish as it began in nothingness and reduce achievement to nothing. Vladimir states, "One is what one is... the essential doesn't change".
The best lack all conviction. The worse are full of passionate intensity. Time feeds the individual of today with the lie that they progress while destroying them. To the end, they have made no progression: they are still waiting for Godot. When Waiting for Godot opened in London in 1955, Kenneth Tynan remarked, "It has no plot, no climax, no denouement; no beginning, no middle and no end". In essence, this is the description of the modern world.
Time has no meaning, life has no climax, no beginning and no end. Sophocles spoke of "No greater evil than anarchy". Innocence in the world no longer exists, it is drowned in a sea of the masses, held down by the blood-dimmed tide. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
Beckett illustrated the terrible predicament of the modern world. A world without values, and without a God. We are left with characters who are paralyzed in motion, meaningless in conversation, and who slave away as time stands still. Wait. That is all to be done in a world with destroyed values, the eyes of this generation is like "sunlight on a broken column".
And this is the way the world ends, "not with a bang, but a whimper". Help.