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Waiting for Godot and the Single Desire

Updated on February 1, 2011

The Single Desire

The Single Desire as mentioned in this topic is a film writing principle. It is the concept that film, or a piece of dramatic writing such as a play, has a single want, or desire. This desire is the cohesive element that creates the structure of the story.  A character (or characters with the same want -- sometimes characters are recruited to another's desire) has a want, the story documents the attempt to acquire it, and the plot ends when the they get it (or not). It is also known as The Map of Desire.

The play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett conforms to the dramatic principle of “Map of Desire” by having a rather clear desire running throughout the course of it. This want is summed up in the title alone: that being that the characters wish to wait for this Godot’s arrival. From the outset of the play, there is a feeling of waiting; although the characters Vladimir and Estragon indulge in conversation, there is a sense of stasis, of filling in the time before something else happens (namely, Godot’s arrival). The opening line of “Nothing to be done”, and its subsequent repetition, removes any idea or thought of other action and events, reducing the play to its one line of desire; waiting. The entirity of the play is permeated with the feeling of waiting.

The two main characters very rarely leave the stage, and for brief moments only. Vladimir departs quickly to go to the toilet and, as there is no real perception of time, with no change of scenery and the moon rising in a moment, this bodily function is perhaps the only mark of time passing by. Like the characters, the entire setting seems to be waiting with them, never really changing, not until the moon suddenly rises and it is too late – and which only means that they will have to start waiting again the next day.


They Do Not Move

Characters often remark that they are leaving, or going, yet each time they utter such, it is immediately followed by the stage direction “he does not move”. Estragon often forgets why they are there, and is each time reminded by Vladimir that they are “waiting for Godot” and this is enough to quell thoughts of leaving, and the reply is never questioned. In the same way, it is never revealed why they are waiting for this particular individual; there is no explanation as to what will happen upon his arrival, again removing any superfluous desire for waiting.

Ultimately this desire appears to be so strong that others are drawn into it. Pozzo, passing across the stage, finds himself wanting to wait for Godot. Although eventually he does leave, his appearance on stage on the next day gives a feeling of repetition and habit, familiar traits of the act of waiting. There is a lot of confusion as to when the characters met, or even if they have met before, which creates the suggestion that this waiting has go on for longer than viewed during the course of the play, and perhaps adds the connotation of how waiting can often seem endless.

Although it often seems that characters are talking about things entirely unrelated to waiting, or partaking in activity other than waiting, this desire is always at the centre of it all. This desire maps itself through the entire run of the play, up until the final stage direction, which is again “They do not move”, where the desire to stay, to wait, is still so strong.


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    • plutopanes profile image


      8 years ago from revolving round the sun

      "But that is not the question. Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."


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