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The luck of slavery

The Luck of Slavery

The Luck of Slavery

Samuel Beckett's pessimistic attitude about the existence of man lead him to write

one of the best contemporary plays known to the twentieth century. Even with its bland

unchanging set, clown-like characters, and seemingly meaningless theme, Waiting for

Godot, arouses the awareness of human tragedy through characters' tragic flaws. Charles

Lyons feels, "a character's attitude of the space in which he lives, shows a range of detail

marking economic status, social classification, and psychology" (Lyons 19). Beckett uses

the character, Lucky, as a metaphor for Man. Using physical, mental, and social

blemishes, Lucky exemplifies Becketts idea that universal man is a slave to his own being.

First Lucky symbolizes man's slavery in a physical sense. Lucky has a master

that instructs him where to go and what to do. Lucky is physically tied with a rope to his

master, but in a sense is also tied to him by fear of being alone. Lucky is asked by two

tramps to dance, but refuses. Lucky only dances at his master command. Lucky is also a

slave to weakness. When Lucky does finally dance, he shuffles chaotically. Ramona

Cormier and Janis Pallister describe Lucky's movements as "stiff" and "ungraceful". They

believe it is because "he is use to being loaded down with burdens...his body is unable to

move freely" (Cormier and Pallister 13). Brooks feel that age gas "diminished Lucky's

dance to a few ineffectual, spasmodic memories of a past ritual" (Brooks 294). Lucky calls

his dance "the net" (Beckett, Act I 27). It is ironical that Lucky does not escapes the net

that restricts him from being independent. The last physical characteristic of slavery that

Lucky exemplifies is, slavery to dumbness. His dumbness does not signify a change, but a

"manifestation", since he could not speak freely until called upon (Metman 122). Thus

Lucky is drawn closer to bondage-now not by choice, but by necessity. Their relationship

becomes symbiotic. Just as man communally needs man to help get through rough times,

Lucky needs his master to communicate for him.

The next blemish that contributes to the slavery of Lucky is his mentality. Lucky is

not capable of functioning on average human mental capacities. According to Eva

Metman, "Lucky allows his master to organize his life for him" (Metman 122). This

makes life easier to bear because Lucky can escape the burden and consequence

surrounded by decision making. Beckett portrays Lucky as a lunatic too dumb to speak or

even think for himself. When Lucky finally does speak, on command, he "stutters" and

"repeats" incoherently, according to Ramona Cormier and Janis Pallister. They also feel

Lucky's "disorganized sentence fragments is symbolic of the mental deterioration of man"

(Cormier and Pallister 9). In addition, Iser believes, "the repetition emphasizes [Lucky's]

unawareness of problems" (Iser 253). Lucky's ideas are distorted from lack of identity. He

can not be his own person, thus, the broken-record-like speech symbolizes his broken

spirit. Man tends to waddle through life pretending that his mental being is somewhat

tainted in order to divert problems and avoid circumstance.

Finally, Beckett's universal man is conveyed through the social status Lucky

upholds. Lucky is below animal level. He is referred to several times as "pig" and "hog".

Lucky even takes on characteristics of an animal, such as, "panting" and "trembling"

(Fletcher 243). Rosette Lamont says, " more dog-like than human, [Lucky] responds to

the cracking of a whip he himself carries between his teeth until his master has need of it".

She also feels "bent under his weight of burden [Lucky] resembles an ass, the most humble

and useful of all creatures" (Lamont 207-208). Lucky caters to his master's needs, while

ignoring his own. This is symbolic of man catering to the government's needs of taxes or

religion's needs of tithes, while ignoring his own family's needs. Lucky is mere property

owned by the head of his government, his god, his master. Ramona Cormier and Janis

Pallister implies, "[Lucky's] role was grounded by habit and inertia...once these roles have

been established, there is no way to reverse them" (Cormier and Pallister 15). In Act I,

Lucky had a chance to free himself from his bondage. He does not because his life has

become habit. Man is slave to the social classes he, himself, created. Brooks revels that

even though he is dumb and "loaded down with sand, [Lucky] nevertheless leads his blind

master" (Brooks 298). Man attempts, daily, to upgrade from lower class to middle class

and middle class to upper class. John Keats said it best when he said, "how is it that man

on earth should roam and lead a life of woe, but not forsake his rugged path." Carey and

Robets say that "if one depends entirely on the society in which one lives, it is impossible to

stand against that society without defeat" (Carey and Roberts 15). Man strives to get out

of the rut and the dog-eat-dog world in which man lives, but with minute success.

Ultimately, Lucky is a mere metaphor of man. The tragic flaws of Lucky only

reinstate the tragic flaws of man. Lucky has no sense of his own identity, but lives

according to the laws of his master. Like Lucky, man is physically weak and

ineffectual compared to the forces of nature. Man is mortal and dies. Man's mentality is

thought to be above the animals, however, man displays the primal instincts of killing,

stealing, and greed. What man has is not good enough, man always wants more under the

classification of society. Finally, man is a slave of his own being because he chooses to be

dominated. Man prefers to follow the crowd and change with the times, even if it means

loosing morale. Fear, love, habit, and mere instinct cause man to want to be controlled.

Men obey governmental laws out of fear, wives obey their husbands out of love, and

children obey their parents out of instinct. Obedience and submissiveness is a expectation

of our society. It is a genuine desire that is embedded in man from the dawn of creation

and will abide within us all until the end of time. Slavery is what sustains man's civility.

Without physical slavery, man never dies. Without mental slavery, man becomes too smart

for his own good. Without social slavery, man is doomed to a life of solitude. If man did

not submit to some cause, the world would live in anarchy and chaos.

Bibliography

Brooks, C. "The Mythic Pattern in Waiting for Godot." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 292-

299.

Carey, Gary, and James Roberts, eds. Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Endgame, & Other

Plays. Cliffs Notes, Inc. Nebraska: 1995.

Cousineu, Thomas. Waiting for Godot: Form in Movement. Boston: Twaune, 1990.

Cromier, Romona.,and Janis L. Pallister. Waiting for Death. Alabama: U of Alabama

Press, 1979.

Duckworth, Colin. Angels of Darkness: Dramatic Effect in Beckett and Ionesco. New

York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1792.

Fletcher, Beryl S., and John Fletcher. A Student's Guide to the Plays of Samuel Beckett.

Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985.

Fletcher, J. "Action and Play in Beckett's Theater." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 242-246.

Iser, W. "Beckett's Dramatic Language." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 251-259.

Kenner, Hugh. A Reader's Guide to Samuel Beckett. New York: Farar, Straus, and

Giroux, 1983.

Lamont, Rosette. "Beckett's Metaphysics of Choiceless Awareness." Samuel Beckett

Now. Ed. Melvin J. Friedman. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1975.

Lyons, Charles R. Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press, 1983.

Metman, Eva. "Reflections on Samuel Beckett's Plays." Samuel Beckett: A Collection of

Critical Essays. Ed. Martin Esslin. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965.

Works Cited

Brooks, C. "The Mythic Pattern in Waiting for Godot." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 292-

299.

Carey, Gary, and James Roberts, eds. Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Endgame, & Other

Plays. Cliffs Notes, Inc. Nebraska: 1995.

Cromier, Romona.,and Janis L. Pallister. Waiting for Death. Alabama: U of Alabama

Press, 1979.

Fletcher, J. "Action and Play in Beckett's Theater." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 242-246.

Iser, W. "Beckett's Dramatic Language." Modern Drama 9 (1966/67) 251-259.

Lamont, Rosette. "Beckett's Metaphysics of Choiceless Awareness." Samuel Beckett

Now. Ed. Melvin J. Friedman. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1975. 199-217.

Lyons, Charles R. Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press, 1983.

Metman, Eva. "Reflections on Samuel Beckett's Plays." Samuel Beckett: A Collection of

Critical Essays. Ed. Martin Esslin. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1965

Word Count: 1388

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