Each decade in our ever changing, growing, and developing society seems to be significantly different from the last. As a result, one would think that stories would have to evolve to fit a specific time but there are a number of ‘one size fits all’ stories that continue to evolve and apply to events throughout time, including recent social events. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Jaco Van Dormeal’s Mr. Nobody are prime examples of stories that have been able to maintain unrelenting social relevance. These stories maintain congruency due to the way in which characters are used as well as the part that absurdism plays. Due to the loose character development of Nemo Nobody in Mr. Nobody and Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot they are able to fit different people and circumstances. The abundance of absurdism also makes way for interpretations and enable these stores to gain and maintain social relevance by creating an open structure and allowing itself to be applicable to any circumstance and narrative.
While some stories are plot driven, it seems to be those that depend solely on the characters that are able to evolve and be applied to life far past the time in which it is made. In Mr. Nobody, the portrayal of Nemo Nobody is paradoxical due to proving him to be both decisive and indecisive. Throughout the film, Nemo is faced with numerous decision-making opportunities. Of the difficult decisions he is faced with, the most difficult, and momentous, decision is choosing, or not, between his parents after their divorce. When Nemo chases the train that his mother is leaving on and when he stops running and stays with his father displays his ability to decision make. On the opposite side, while when he runs away, instead of choosing, and when he is recounting his life, he is displayed as indecisive and nonsensical. Perhaps by portraying Nemo Nobody as someone who is able to make decisions while not making them and vice versa, Dormeal suggests that life, and people, are dynamic and encourages further reflection of the effect and process of decision-making. On the contrary, Dormeal is suggesting that decision-making, or not, does not necessarily change the outcome of life itself as we ultimately end in the same place; death. Waiting for Godot further perpetrates the theme of being active or not active in ones life.
Waiting for Godot’s Estragon and Vladimir also run the narrative, or lack thereof. Throughout the play, we are constantly waiting for action, which never actually comes. The very first line “Nothing to be done.” suggests there is nothing that Estragon can do about the boot on his foot or the aching of his foot. Perhaps the boot on his foot is something that affects him yet he needs outside help. To this Vladimir responds “I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t tried everything. And I resumed the struggle.” Vladimir’s response to what seems like a simple statement from Estragon creates the idea that there is a deeper meaning to what Estragon has said and encourages thinking. Waiting for Godot is Beckett’s way of saying that there is a consistency of waiting for something to happen whilst taking no true action for it to be done. Contrarily, Beckett could be saying that some things are out of one’s control thus waiting is all that can truly be done. The absurdism of the plots of both Mr. Nobody and Waiting for Godot allow the stories to be character driven and thus encourage thinking and fluidity through time.
The idea that something can make no sense at all to the point that it does is absurd and Mr. Nobody and Waiting for Godot both fit this criteria. Throughout Mr. Nobody we journey through multiple realities that are determined by Nemo’s actions and decisions. In one sequence, we see Nemo in bed with Anne but when he wakes up he is by the pool side with Jeanne in his face as well as calling his children by names that are not theirs. As we have not yet seen other realities of his life, as the audience, we are unsure who these people are or why he is confused about his surroundings. This allows us to make sense of the information that we already have. We are also faced with absurdism in the very end of the film when Nemo is speaking to the reporter about his life and recalling events that took place, or didn’t take place, in his life. When the reporter becomes frustrated with Nemo’s seemingly circumventing around questions that he is asked Nemo goes as far as to cause the reporter to question his own existence by suggest “We only live in the imagination of 9 year old child.” Due to the absurdism, the audience struggles to follow his life and determine a single plot, message, or motivation. The absurdism we face in Mr. Nobody provoke unrelenting thought.
Waiting for Godot also presents us with an immense amount of absurdism that causes immense thought to prevail. One of the most analyzed aspects of absurdism that Beckett presents us with is the constant gestus that Estragon and Vladimir display. The most prominent example of gestus is the constant declaration of going and not moving. Both Estragon and Vladmir declare that they are leaving and do nothing. As a play without a traditional narrative structure, or narrative structure at all, also makes it absurd as a whole. The fact that these instances and the play as a whole is so absurd, it poses the questions of what does it mean, does it mean anything, and what does it mean if it doesn’t mean anything? Being plagued with absurdism, purposefully, Mr. Nobody and Waiting for Godot maintain applicability and continue to gain valuable social relevance.
The most important thing that storytelling is for is being able to accurate portray the human condition and represent the constant struggles of being alive. By telling a story about the difficulty and necessity of decision making, Mr. Nobody depicts the way in which we struggle daily with issues. From choosing the color to paint our nails, whether we should go to college or work, and on a higher level, who should be our president are all things that we face that can skew the way our future is immensely. Through Mr. Nobody, Dormeal is possibly saying two things. One of those things being while choices are important, any choice can be made your own choice. By this, any choice that is made can ultimately be changed in the future and/or steps can be taken to make this choice better or totally move on to something else. The second message that Dormeal is sending is that either way things end the same; either in death or in other ways. Waiting for Godot has already been remade numerous times in different contexts such as Waiting for Godot in New Orleans and the performance of Waiting for Godot in a prison for people awaiting death row. Waiting for Godot New Orleans meant a lot of things; waiting for relief from suffering including help from local efforts, FEMA, and resettlement. In the context of the prison, Godot was death. Depending on the situation, or current activities going on determines the meaning of these stories and that is the only way in which meaning can be constructed; by drawing from the now rather than from the work itself. Mr. Nobody and Waiting for Godot are important pieces of art because of the way in which they can be so effortlessly tied into events through time and be applicable to almost any situation and context. These works only create meaning when applied to real life events and so by not being self-sustained they are just that.
Due to the quicksilver nature of our society, it is easy to create stories based off of just one event. Waiting for Godot and Mr. Nobody are metamorphic works that have the ability to shift according to the times and the circumstances. By utilizing characters and plot in an unfamiliar, undeveloped, and versatile way, Beckett and Van Dormeal were able to create characters who are alive and evolve with time and circumstances. The way in which absurdism is used in both of these stories further create a world that can be applied to our world time and time again through history. It is quite amazing that today both of these stories have an abundance of conversation surrounding them due to their evolutionary nature.
Beckett, Samuel. “Waiting for Godot.” Grove Press. New York. 1954. Print. 08
Chan, Paul. “Waiting for Godot in New Orleans.” Creative Time. 2010. Web. 08
Van Dormeal, Jaco, director. Mr. Nobody. Wild Bunch, 2009. Netflix. Web. 08
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