"The Stranger" is a novel by author Albert Camus, and "Waiting for Godot" is a play by author Samuel Beckett. Each of the works depict characters from very different societies, and in these differences lie some similarities that both works share. This essay will be discussing both similarities and differences that the novel and play share, in order to develop a better and deeper understanding of each piece of literature.
One of the common characteristics that the two pieces of literature share is how the characters pass their time. Camus quotes, "After lunch I was a little bored and I wandered around the apartment…A little later, just for something to do, I picked up an old newspaper and read it." (Camus, 21). Meursault has a lot of free time on weekends. He has sexual intercourse with Marie the night before, which is an example of a method of passing time. Didi and Gogo pass their time in "Waiting for Godot" by talking nonsense. As shown in the play, they chatter and coincidentally meet strangers such as Pozzo to pass the time. The conversations between Didi and Gogo were not necessary, and they could all be deleted because they are made up of meaningless idle chatter as they wait for Godot. Both characters in both pieces of literature pass their time by entertaining themselves with surrounding objects or people. This also shows that time is irrational as the characters do not acknowledge time, but instead find events to kill time. Both pieces of literature display repetition of daily routines. Meursault works and enjoys the weekends; Didi and Gogo meet the same people over and over.
Another similarity shared in both pieces of literature is the powerlessness and immobility that the characters experience. In Part 2 of "The Stranger", Meursault was sent to prison for the death of the Arab, and after the trial the judge declared him as guilty. Camus quoted, "When I was imprisoned, the hardest thing was that my thoughts were still those of a free man…all of a sudden I would feel just how closed in I was by the walls of my cells." (Camus, 76). Prison clearly limited Meursault's freedom, and he was physically trapped inside his prison cell, mentally limited by the confined environment he was in. Meursault was unable to exit freely out of his cell, and his freedom was being suppressed by the law and society. Similarly, Beckett quotes,
"Estragon Charming spot. [He turns, advances to front, halts facing auditorium.] Inspiring prospects. [He turns to Vladimir.] Let's go.
Vladimir We can't
Estragon Why not?
Vladimir Were waiting for Godot." (Beckett, 8).
Gogo wants to leave, but Didi reminds him that they are unable to leave. Didi and Gogo's adulation of Godot suppressed their urge of leaving, which shows the control that Godot has over Didi and Gogo's minds. Didi and Gogo are powerless; they are waiting for the mighty Godot to come and meet them. The major characters in both pieces of literature are immobile due to the powerlessness they have, and they are limited by either a divine force or by law and society.
The two pieces of literature have thoroughly articulated upon the concept that life is meaninglessness. In "Waiting for Godot", Didi and Gogo have repeatedly waited for Godot every day. Godot never shows up, but they still go to the same place by the tree every day and repeat their procedure. It is meaningless for Vladimir and Estragon to repeatedly wait for someone who is a "no show". There is no point in waiting for someone who never shows up. The promise was broken by not showing up, and Didi and Gogo should not put that much hope and trust in Godot because it is meaningless. Similarly, in "The Stranger", Camus quotes, "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: 'Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.' That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday." (Camus, 3). At the beginning of the book, Meursault received a letter informing him of his mother's death. Meursault shows no grievances nor sorrow towards this affair. Instead, he is more concerned about the specific dates. He views his mother's death just like any other person's death that occurs every day. In Meursault's view, death is as good as being alive. There is no significant advantage regarding either state as the whole existence of life is illogical to Meursault.
With similarities comes differences. The two pieces of literature show very diverse ideas of explaining life and religion. "The Stranger" displays an absurdist view of the world. As Camus quotes, "Then, I don't know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me." (Camus, 120). The Chaplain approaches Meursault to try and convince him to turn to God before the few hours he has left of his life. However, instead of embracing the mental help that the Chaplain is providing, Meursault gets angry. He refuses to accept divine rule over humans; instead, he accepts the indifference of the world. He thinks the whole universe is absurd, and he is aware that he cannot do anything to change it; instead, he decides to just live with it. In contrast, "Waiting for Godot" suggests that there IS a divine ruling over human beings. The setting of the whole story can be interpreted as a cross-bridge of the afterlife. It suggests that Didi and Gogo are waiting for Godot to answer their call of acceptance into heaven. The name "Godot" contains the word "God", and it is obvious that the author portrays the character of Godot to be the divine power. This book accepts that there is a God that is ruling the world, and the scenes prove to be the supernatural events, which occur after a person's death.
Another concept that differs between these two pieces of literature is how each character from each book expresses their emotions. In "The Stranger", after Meursault is sent into prison, his emotions are only portrayed in his mind. Thoughts swirl in his mind but are not expressed verbally. Meursault has no one to depend on. He does not put his trust in anyone. He bases his judgment on what he thinks is right or wrong, but he does not speak up or give his own opinion; instead, he bites his tongue and keeps it to himself. In contrast, Didi and Gogo express their emotions like tides in a flood. Both characters display dramatic feelings, and their gestures augmented their feelings even more. As shown in the play:
"Estragon I am happy
Vladimir So am I.
Estragon So am I.
Vladimir We are happy
Estragon We are happy. [Silence.] What do we do now, now that we are happy?" (Beckett, 50).
This quote shows how easily both of them express their emotions instead of running thoughts through their heads and thinking of what others will comment. Both Didi and Gogo are bluntly honest with their opinions, and there is no hiding anything in their heads.
The characters in both pieces of literature have different forms of self-awareness. Meursault only gains self-awareness during the second part of the book when he is locked up in prison. "…and for the first time in months, I distinctly heard the sound of my own voice. I recognized it as the same one that had been ringing in my ears for many long days, and I realized that all that time I had been talking to myself." (Camus, 81). Meursault had already lost count of the days he had been in prison, and he finally realized that he had gone crazy. He was aware and conscious that these prison walls have isolated him and tormented his loneliness. In contrast, Didi and Gogo are not aware of where they are, and their determined destiny is confusing as the constant repetition of days pass by. They merely remember that the same people turn up every time, and they are lost in their own world of waiting for Godot. They are not aware that their actions are meaningless, and Godot is not going to show up.
In conclusion, the two pieces of literature paint an image of two different philosophical ideas, while they also share some similarities. The meaninglessness of life is a shared concept within both books, while the ideas about God and religion differ as "The Stranger" depicts absurdism while "Waiting for Godot" shows existentialism as Vladimir and Estragon try to create meaning by believing in God. All in all, these splendid works clash and collide to form the ideas I have examined in this essay.