Saturday, December 4, 2010
Various Interpretations of Pozzo and Lucky as Symbols
Various interpretations of the Pozzo-Lucky relationship and its significance have been offered by critics. According to one interpretation, these two men represent a master and a slave. According to other interpretations, Pozzo and Lucky symbolise the relationship between capital and labour, or between wealth and the artist. Another view, which seems to be very far-fetched, is that this relationship has an autobiographical origin, Pozzo representing James Joyce and Lucky representing Samuel Beckett.(It is a well-known fact that, in the initial stages of his literary career, Beckett was deeply attached to James Joyce and was almost like a disciple to him.) One of the critics tells us that Pozzo is no other than Godot himself. According to this view, Godot is God, Pozzo is Godot, Pozzo is therefore God; and since Pozzo is nothing but a tyrant and a slave-driver, so too is God. Another critic characterises Pozzo as the God of the Old Testament, the tyrant-divinity in Act I and the New Testament God, injured, helpless, crucified, in Act II. On the other extreme from this view is the opinion that Pozzo is a kind of anti-Godot. It has even been said that Lucky may be Godot. Yet another view is that Lucky suggests the Biblical figure of Christ.
One Way of Getting Through Life with Someone Else
Thus we have almost as many interpretations as there are critics. One of the critics says that, while Pozzo and Lucky may be body and intellect, master and slave, capitalist and proletarian, coloniser and colonised, Cain and Abel, sadist and masochist, Joyce and Beckett, they represent essentially, and more simply, one way of getting through life with someone else, just as Vladimir and Estragon more sympathetically represent another way of doing so.
A Metaphor of Society
It is possible to treat Pozzo and Lucky as representatives of the ordinary world from which the two tramps are excluded. Pozzo and Lucky create a metaphor of society, not as it is but as the tramps might see it, with the social structure reduced to an essential distinction between master and slave. Pozzo appears all-powerful, dominating the stage by his gestures and his inflated language. By virtue of his capacity to enjoy sensual delights and his wealth, he reminds us of a feudal lord, self-consciously magnanimous in his disposal of time and charity. His is a well-regulated world in contrast to the confusion of the tramps where everything is in flux. It was Lucky who gave Pozzo what refinement and culture Pozzo now possesses. But for Lucky, all Pozzo’s thoughts, and all his feelings would have been of common things. “Beauty, grace, truth of the first water”—these were originally all beyond Pozzo. But Lucky is now a puppet who obeys Pozzo’s commands. He dances, sings, recites, and thinks for Pozzo, and his personal life has been reduced to basic animal reflexes: he cries and he kicks. But once he was a better dancer and capable of giving his master moments of great illumination and joy; he was kind, helpful, entertaining, Pozzo’s good angel. But now he is “killing” Pozzo, or so Pozzo believes. Lucky’s thinking is now not the rationalist consolation which once it was, but a total scepticism which illuminates the agony beneath appearances. When he speaks he is Pozzo’s tormentor; he reminds Pozzo of the reality which it is Pozzo’s earnest endeavour to avoid. This becomes clear in Lucky’s great speech which terrifies the hearers because it foretells the extinction of the world. The change which overtakes Pozzo and Lucky in Act II may be treated as a comment on the decline of the master-slave society.
Pozzo, the Egotist and Absolute Monarch
There is another way of approaching this curious pair of characters. Perhaps, in the portrayal of Pozzo, Beckett has given us a caricature of God, the absolute monarch. Pozzo is the living symbol of the Establishment. He is an egotist, full of self-love. He is fond of hearing his own voice and the ready flow of his rhetoric. The stool which Lucky carries for him is a kind of portable throne for the monarch. Pozzo’s greatest concern is his dignity. He rebukes the tramps for asking him a question: “A moment ago you were calling me sir, in fear and trembling. Now you’re asking me questions. No good will come of this!” Pozzo’s absolute mastery, his divinely delegated powers, must remain unchallenged. As to his slave, Pozzo would like to get rid of him, but “the truth is you can’t drive such creatures away. The best thing would be to kill them.” One recognises here the tone of a super-lord. In Act II, reduced to a pitiable condition, Pozzo still calls his servant “pig” and encourages Estragon “to give him a taste of his boot, in the face and the privates as far as possible.” Although he himself cries for pity, Pozzo feels no pity for anyone else. Paradoxically this grotesque man formulates the tragedy of man’s brief existence on this earth: “One day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die......They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” In Act I, Pozzo becomes furious on hearing Lucky’s offensive rhetoric. He tramples on Lucky’s hat and shouts triumphantly: “There’s an end to his thinking!” Tyranny is here firmly established. In Act II the master is blind, and the slave dumb. The rope which links the two is shorter, symbolism the increasing dependence of the master on the servant. Clearly Pozzo has not carried out his original intention of selling his slave. The two wretched creatures are still joined together, the result being a monstrous indivisible mass of humanity.
The Material and Spiritual Sides of Man; Contrasted Pairs
It has often been said that Pozzo and Lucky are one man. According to this view, they represent the duality of body and mind; they represent the relationship between the material and spiritual sides of man, with the intellect subordinate to the appetites of the body. Estragon and
have likewise been supposed to represent one man. If these assumptions are correct, the difference between the two pairs may be noted. The oneness of Pozzo and Lucky is degrading to both and is shown as harmful; the connection of the other two is a warm, life-sustaining relationship. In fact, mere contact with Pozzo has a weakening effect on others. This shows the demoralising consequences of tyrannical rule. Pozzo and Lucky belong to a formal world and have an orthodox social relationship: dominating and being dominated. They are tied to each other not by their natures but by their external conditions. The slave is tied but the master is also tied because he must hold the rope. In Act II, this is the rope leading the blind. Vladimir and Estragon have a different relationship: informal and outside society; wanting to break away yet still anxiously returning to each other; a voluntary relationship but with binding natural ties. Thus there is a major contrast between the Pozzo-Lucky and the Estragon-Vladimir relationship. Pozzo and Lucky are complementary individuals, as are the other two; but the relationship between the first two men is on a more primitive level: Pozzo is the sadist master, Lucky the submissive slave. Vladimir
The Mutual Inter-dependence of Pozzo and Lucky
Although Pozzo and Lucky present an obvious and sharp contrast to each other, they have one thing in common: they are both driven by a desperate attempt to evade panic which would grip them if they lost their belief in what Pozzo stands for. Pozzo lives by brief orders which he flings at Lucky. No other will than his own exists. Lucky, in a way, deserves his name because he has a master who organises his life for him, cruelly though he may do so. It becomes more and more evident in the course of the play that Lucky believes that his safety lies only within the pattern of a mutual sadomasochistic relationship between himself and Pozzo. (In Act I, Pozzo reveals this mutual torture in one of his speeches) For this mutual fixation Lucky has sacrificed everything, even his soul and his creativeness. And he accepts his present abject misery and slavery as a matter which concerns nobody but Pozzo and himself. When Estragon tries to wipe away Lucky’s tears after Lucky has received a cruel reproach from Pozzo, Lucky kicks Estragon in the leg. It would seem that the relationship of master to slave is of the unbreakable kind. The tyrant strives to make the victim totally dependent on him, whereas the victim sees the basis of his own security in the authority of the tyrant. The following opinion is also noteworthy: “The pozzo-Lucky pair may be compared to the collective pseudo-ego. The two tramps, on the other hand, reveal features of the lost value hidden in those who have something above the average, an overplus for which there is no adequate outlet.”
Mankind Versus Christ
There is also the view that Pozzo represents mankind, and Lucky represents Christ. If this view is accepted, what takes place before the tramps is the re-acting of the Redemption. The tramps, of course, do not recognise it as such, find it unpleasant, and prefer to continue waiting for the mysterious Godot. Another possible interpretation, already indicated above, is that Pozzo and Lucky represent human life, Pozzo representing the physical aspect of the human personality and Lucky the spiritual, which is in time brutalised by the treatment it receives and is reduced to the incoherence represented by Lucky’s monologue. Pozzo himself in the course of the play turns blind, this perhaps being an indication of the transience of human power and domination.