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Reflect Like Human Beings, A Civilization Will Talk To

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Reflect Like human beings, a civilization will talk to itself, using art as the favored medium. A culture’s enduring literature mirrors the conversation. Dickens reflected social guilt over the treatment of the poor and pilloried the arrogance of the rich. In War of the Worlds (1897), a work eagerly translated worldwide, H.G. Wells reflected international insecurity over an Industrial-Age world war—an insecurity that became reality in less than two decades. Consequently, it is wise to listen to a culture’s authors, especially those whose work outlives them. Their words often prove prophetic.
In 1953, Samuel Beckett premiered in Paris the French version of “Waiting for Godot”. The now famous plot of this tragic comedy depicts the
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That happens when the two main characters vow--should Godot disappoint them on the morrow--to hang themselves with a good strong rope. With that, the unifying expectation virtually evaporates, and so does the play. Losing hope in the coming of Godo strips both characters of a reason to be by the roadside. If the roadside is life, it also robs both men of their reason to be; hence the talk of suicide.
Commentators have remarked that the uncertainty of Beckett’s play is an essential part of the experience. Critic Pierre Marcabru said, “With Beckett, theatre is already in its grave.” Both opinions are true, especially if one views “Waiting for Godot” as an elegy to Western culture in the mid-20th century. The secular optimism about human progress at the century’s start disintegrated in the barbaric violence of two World Wars. The Cold War and involvement in continuing local conflicts worldwide have drained resources and undermined the West’s confidence in its ability to act decisively. The international student rebellions of the seventies still echo in the academy—both on the continent and in America. Moreover, growing political and social divisions have even infected culture’s faith in its own values and social institutions. Unsustainable debt, growing economic commitments, and greater competition in world markets increasingly destabilize the economies of both Europe and America. Though the West still possesses much strength, an uneasy weariness
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