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On Directing Godot: Simple Question of Will-Power

Posted by C Moon on March 8, 2008

The following is my current, tentative interpretation on Waiting for Godot (recently written for my AP Literature class), answering questions such as “Why Lucky is Lucky?” and briefly explaining why I think that it is an existentialist play. But, I am open to other opinions and eager to hear them from others. Again, the purpose of this post is to jointly search for THE interpretation for the play. It is my attempt to clear up the questions that remain unconfirmed after reading the piece several times; thus, I am open to other opinions and willing to change my interpretation.

Next to come: What is the significance of the hats in Godot?

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At a glance, it is easy to think that Waiting for Godot is written in the absurdist perspective, i.e., it is saying that there is no significant meaning in life: repetition and silence, or the “routine” is overruling the whole play that it is hard to distinguish the difference between the scenes as they are too monotonous. But I believe that when one takes a deeper look into the play and the lines, one is able to find an existentialist beliefs in this seemingly absurdist theatre piece, Waiting for Godot.

This play is strange. Every time I read it through, I get to face more unanswered questions. One such question, which consequently becomes one of my arguments why Waiting for Godot is an existentialist play, is this: While Beckett does not have problem in leaving the boy to be called “boy” in the cast, why does he bother naming Lucky “Lucky”? Lucky is dominantly called “pig” or “hog,” but the name remains in our mind since Beckett mentions the name in the cast list. What is the significance of the name? My answer to that question at this moment is that Lucky is a symbol of person who is “tied” to a figure such as God: “Pozzo,” who, in his words, says that he is made in “God’s image,” tells Lucky everything that he should do, but Lucky ends up with no life of his own and no thought of his own. Without one’s own will to manage one’s own life, there will be no meaning in life.

So, given that the play conveys existentialist beliefs to the reader, who is Godot that Estragon and Vladimir is waiting for? Many probably guess that Godot is the image of God, with “God” and “Dieu (French for God)” combined. Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for the God-like authority figure to come and give directions to change their monotonous, dull life. This argument is supported by noting the time when the play was actually written: After World War II, people were depressed, aimless, or even “AP-PALLED,” as Vladimir puts. They were unsure of their present time and their presence. They reminisce the old past, saying, “We were respectable in those days.” They wait for Godot in order to ask him “What do we [Estragon and Vladimir] do?” Returning to the question of who is Godot, supposing that Godot is God, will he ever come? I would say, in the existentialist view, it is totally up to Vladimir and Estragon. Remembering that Godot sounds similar to French slang of old boots, there’s a connection that can easily be made: Estragon’s boots and Godot. What would boots symbolize in this play? Estragon’s taking the boots off would be partially due to his decision to wait for Godot. Keeping the boots on, or the “Godot” on, what can Estragon do? He can leave, and initiate the change himself.

My conclusion, that all the two need in order to escape from the doldrums is their own decision to leave, reminds me of one scene in the second act of the play: When Vladimir tries to help Pozzo up or Estragon tries to help Vladimir up, they fail and everyone stumbles on the ground. But Vladimir and Estragon easily get up when they decide to try on their own. A truly ironic, absurd, but funny scene. But as the two say, it demonstrates that it is a “Simple question of will-power.” Will the two possibly leave, “drop”-ping Godot? I am not sure, but I hope that eventually learning everything is a “Simple question of will-power,” Estragon will put his boots on and the two agree to leave.

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Photo Credits: (1) “Waiting for Godot” by Naccarato on Flickr

(2) “Boots” by The 4/30 Murders on Flickr

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On Directing Waiting for Godot: Introduction

Posted by C Moon on March 7, 2008

With Mr. Hadley’s kind invitation, I am having the honor to assistant-direct Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. This piece by Beckett seems one of the most controversial plays in how to interpret. Even critics have extreme views on this play: some say that Beckett is trying to deliver his absurdist beliefs through this play, while others say it is existentialist beliefs that he attempts to deliver. Even after reading the script 5 times, I still have many unanswered questions. Sometimes my preliminary, yet once confident, interpretation was later turned out to be not quite right, which prompted me to continue searching for the right one. Thus, I plan to write from time to time about how my interpretation on Waiting for Godot changes in the process of analyzing this enigma a word at a time. I was told that Samuel Beckett once said that “It is not up to me to interpret my plays, but is up to others to interpret them.” I hope that each upcoming post of mine on Waiting for Godot makes people discuss their opinions openly and eventually we together come up with a satisfactory interpretation.

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Photo Credits: “2006: Waiting for Godot” by pierofix on Flickr

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On Censorship

Posted by C Moon on December 7, 2007

Censorship prohibits inappropriate information from reaching the public. Whatever the reason is, censorship is not justified since it is a mere excuse for enforcing the ideals of the authority on the mass. The negative aspect of censorship is easily seen from Aldous Huxleys Brave New World, Frederick Douglass autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and Iris Changs Rape of Nanking.

In Brave New World, the society operates in an extremely systematical manner. People are educated as intended according to their social classes, ranging from Alpha, the highest, to Epsilon, the lowest. People are tuned to satisfy to their destined situation and people are censored not to know beyond what is fed to them, e.g., they are ignorant of the concept of pain. However, whether the system is actually providing the maximum amount of happiness or is merely trying to maintain the stability of the society is the issue. John, the protagonist who understands both pain and happiness, chooses pain over blind happiness.

Similarly, the African Americans who were enslaved during the early days of the USA were not allowed to access information. Frederick Douglass wrote about how the slave owners and the Whites restricted the slaves from learning about their situation in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The White slave owners intentionally took human rights away from the slaves. They did not teach the slaves how to read or write, and they also isolated the black infants from their mothers before they could even form a sense of attachment. Slaves were raised to know neither family nor love. Even Frederick Douglass, who was able to learn about human rights and eventually won his own freedom, recounted that he was not affected at all when he heard that his mother passed away. Prohibiting the slaves from forming any relation with another, the slave owners were able to control the African Americans for decades.

In Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang reports the long-concealed holocaust, which was on par with the Holocaust in both magnitude and cruelty. Despite Nanking citizens having opened up the gate without any resistance, Japan ordered its soldiers to Kill All the Captives. While strictly restricting the access of foreigners and reporters to the city, Japanese soldiers slaughtered and raped the citizens. Only after cleaning up certain districts and roads of the city, foreigners were allowed to tour designated areas. While the corpses were decomposing on one side of the city, surviving citizens on the other side were forced to cheer for the Japanese troops. Japanese military effectively manipulated the media and only favorable scenes were allowed to be published. Not only foreigners but also common Japanese were not aware of the massacre by the end of the war.

Censorship enables the authority to abuse and manipulate the public, depriving it of free choice and will.

For more information about censorship, check out this interesting posting about censorship, featuring the history and arguments of both side.

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Photo Credits: “control” by sacrifice_87 on Flickr

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Theodicy II — The Words of God

Posted by C Moon on December 7, 2007

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier Theodicy post, I am not a Christian and thus do not know much about Christian God. (Though I do not deny His existence, I am not ready to choose a religion.) I have thought that though God is “good,” religion may not fully represent the ideals. The clash between Christianity and Islamic beliefs still causes numerous deaths. Each side tries to enforce its own beliefs to the other side. Thus, though I am not opposing to any form of gods, including God, Allah, or Buddha, I do not have concrete interest in a specific religion.

Recently, reading Paradise Lost, I get to question whether God is actually the “good.” Since I do not know much about God, I cannot reach a definite conclusion on whether God is originally indifferent to humanity, or God depicted in Paradise Lost is Milton’s unique interpretation. Thus, I am doing some research.

The authoritative source in getting the Words of God is definitely the Bible, since other sources may not fully reflect God’s perspective. The followings are some of the quotes that I’ve discovered while surfing the internet.

Blessed are the peacemakers. – Matthew 5:9
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I come not to send peace but a sword. – Matthew 10:34

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. – Matthew 5:39
Suppose ye that I come to give peace on earth? I will tell you nay, but rather division. – Luke 12:51

All that take the sword shall perish with the sword. – Matthew 26:52
He that hath no sword, let him sell his garments and buy one. – Luke 22:36

Love thine enemies; do good to them that hate you. – Luke 6:27
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them out of the temple … and poured out the changer’s money and overthrew the tables. – John 2:15

Reading through the quotes above, don’t you feel that something is weird? Each of “blessed,” “good,” and “merciful” statements is followed by a directly contradicting statement. The renowned quote “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” is immediately contradicted by another line “Suppose ye that I come to give peace on earth? I will tell you nay, but rather division.” If the words of the Bible are not consistent, which words should one follow? I found a post that seems to agree with the generally held opinion. But still, my effort to understand the exact nature of God will continue.

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Photo Credits: “Take it Easy. God is in Control” by sgs_1019 on Flickr

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Walden and Thoreau’s Philosophy of Life

Posted by C Moon on December 7, 2007

Walden is an exposure of Thoreau’s philosophy of life. He saw the goal of life to be exploration of personal, spiritual growth, and he proposed to live a simple life and study the Nature so as to attain it. His thoughts and suggestions are both idealistic and practical. They are idealistic for normal people valuing mundane growth highly. They are simple for Thoreau, having lived at Walden Pond for two years and two months as an experiment of his proposal.

To Thoreau, the society’s preoccupation with money and wealth seems to be foolish in that they are transient and they costs humanity. According to Thoreau’s calculation presented in the book, most economic activities are not economical. Hence, he recommends a life excluding all superfluities. He thinks them as dross. Owning more than the indispensable only distracts a person from seeing the very truth of life. He asks people to establish a goal of life rather than just chasing money. He urges people to “discover that they did not live.” Toward the end of the book, Thoreau clearly states what he desires in life: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

Many hesitate to try new things because those are not commonly known. However, Thoreau asks to try those one has imagined. Though it is said by others that it is impossible, Thoreau asserts that what one thinks of himself as is what he actually can be.

The book is filled with insightful phrases that look at social issues squarely, vivid and clear descriptions of the Nature, and idealistic and appealing thoughts. Though it is not an easy book, and, as some say, can be easily misconceived as a boring book, I strongly recommend this book to my friends and firmly believe that people can enjoy this if they read it with deliberation.

My favorite phrase in Walden is the following: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Walden is a quite controversial book. Some, including myself, say it is worth reading, while others say it is boring. To be objective, I place a link to the post written by odyssean.

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Photo Credits: “Walden1” by Apostolos Letov on Flickr

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Theodicy

Posted by C Moon on December 7, 2007

As I do not have a set religion for myself (it does not mean that I am an atheist, though), I did not have chances to read the Bible closely. I just had a vague idea of God and the divine values each religion teaches. To briefly put what I have thought before, God values “good”-ness, devils may be the villains, God or Jesus supports the idea of Agape, Buddha supports the idea of mercy, and so on.

But today, I want to question my vague, but long-held beliefs. This year, I read some books that made me think of theodicy. (For more information on the topic, check out Solomon Blaylock’s The Problem of Evil)

In Shakespeare’s tragic play King Lear, the Nature, the equivalent to God, does not help the “good,” but let them go through sufferings. Eventually, not only the “bad” side but also the “good” side met the same fate, death. Also, reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I wonder whether the “absolute” good in God is absolute and whether the “good” God enforces is the same as the “good” the Fallen humanity believes as God’s teaching.

In Paradise Lost, as expected, God is omnipotent. He does not have any hesitation in enforcing his orders. But despite God’s power and ability to protect the “good”-ness of humanity and its innocence, he does not take any action. In fact, he knows that human will not follow his order, and is ready to punish and condemn humanity eternally.

Judging from my recent readings on God, God seems to be a mere observer. He does not care whether the good remains or whether His people commit “bad.” Rather, he just expects something to happen, and waits for the results. He is simply ready to punish those who could not attend to His values. Is God on the “good” side? Is it that the “goodness” that I believed in is different from that of Heaven? I do not know the answers. The only thing I can say is that while reading Paradise Lost, I felt that both Satan and God have good and evil inside them. Satan tempts humanity to fall (bad), but it was to save his own comrades from Hell (good). God leaves humanity to fall (bad), but gives them a chance to be redeemed (good).

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Photo Credits: “Lobster Head Sunlight” by mdmarkus66 on Flickr

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Is Knowledge a Source of Sin?

Posted by C Moon on December 7, 2007


As I’ve mentioned before, I am reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost in my AP Literature class. And as I read through the text, I inevitably had to ask this question to myself. Is pursuit of knowledge a sin? Here come some direct quotes from Paradise Lost.

“But of the tree whose operation brings / Knowledge of good and ill, …”
“…, shun to taste / And shun the bitter consequence: ”
“…, inevitably thou shalt die, / From that day mortal, and this happy state / Shalt lose, expelled from hence into a world / Of owe and sorrow.”

and as God pre-noticed, Eve and Adam who ate the fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Ill” causes their expulsion.

“For still they [Adam and Eve] knew, and ought to have still remember’d / The high Injunction not to taste that Fruit, / Whoever tempted; which they not obeying, / Incurr’d, what could they less, the penaltie, / And manifold in sin, deserv’d to fall.”

There is an interesting quote that I’ve found from the post, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. D. H. Lawrence says, “That was the birth of sin. Not doing it, but KNOWING about it. Before the apple, [Adam and Eve] had shut their eyes and their minds had gone dark. Now, they peeped and pried and imagined. They watched themselves.” I basically agree with Diane (the author of the post) and D. H. Lawrence. Is knowing what is good and bad wrong? Is it more dangerous to recognize evil than to be unaware of its existence?

Being unaware of “evil” does not necessarily means that that person does not do the “evil” act. It would rather mean that that person may not have a chance to stop the wrong doing. Knowledge itself is not bad. It is bad when it is misused. Knowing what is “evil” can be a sword with two blades. On one hand, one can pursue the good and avoid doing the evil. Unless you know what is bad, how can you stop the bad? On the other hand, one can do the evil act more effectively. Personally, I believe that the good use of knowledge prevails. Wouldn’t that be the reason why schools exist? We learn, bettering ourselves.

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Photo Credits: “Tree of Knowledge” by bw14 on Flickr

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Reflection on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Posted by C Moon on December 5, 2007

As the title Pride and Prejudice implies, the novel depicts several characters interacting with each other and learning to overcome class differences and foibles. Darcy and Bingley, while interacting with Elizabeth and Jane in bad and good ways, overcome their prejudice, and finally get to gain true love. Elizabeth gets to know the true character of Darcy eventually. They get to overcome their first conception about the others and attain their share of happiness.

According to the first impression of each other, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are the most unlikely couple that is to be created in a novel. Darcy is first perceived as the “proudest, most disagreeable man,” and he actually thinks that “there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me [Darcy] to stand up with.” He is confident in himself, and does not think that there may be someone who deserves to be equal to himself. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Darcy not quite agreeable with herself, and does not try to see through his real personality anymore. In contrast, when George Wickham approaches her in seemingly agreeable manner and tells his story, she blindly believes his story, ignoring Miss Bingley’s comment, “for as to Mr. Darcy’s using him [Wickham] ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has always been remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner.”. It is not until Darcy realizes Elizabeth’s “beautiful expression of her dark eyes,” and not until Elizabeth received Darcy’s letter that they finally get to understand each other in truth.

Normally, it is hard for most people to overcome prejudice. While Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy are able to achieve their love by surmounting the prejudice, Catherine de Burgh is confined in her world, constantly belittling the Bennets. Only those who are lucky to have the chances to see beyond the prejudice and who are brave enough to overcome it can attain what they dearly want and what is really dear.
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Photo Credits: “Pride and Prejudice” by Apostolos Letov

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Adam Is Not Alone

Posted by C Moon on December 4, 2007

Currently, my AP Literature class covers John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. In order to heighten understanding of the text, we were told to form pairs and produce movies recounting assigned parts of the text. The part describing Adam’s Creation and Loneliness was assigned to my partner and me.

We devoted some time to the search for photos to be included in the movie. But unlike Eve, Adam rarely appears alone in photos and drawings. Mostly either Adam and Eve appear together or Eve alone appears. Eventually, we could find only three decent Adam solo-pictures. Why does Adam rarely appear alone in the picture while Eve does? As many say, is Adam not as much interesting as Eve?

In Paradise Lost, when God creates creatures, He creates everything in pairs. But in making human, He creates Adam alone. Adam is given the right to name all other animals and knowledge to comprehend their nature. I would say that Adam is created as the vice-God of the Paradise. Unlike God, however, Adam feels loneliness. He cries out, “Who can enjoy alone, / Or all enjoying, what contentment find?” He asks God to create someone to “partake.”

Adam rarely appears in solo-pictures because of his wish to be with someone else. Maybe it was from the time of Adam that we humans started to need someone else to rely on and help.

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Photo Credits: “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” by jlinczak on Flickr

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Miss Saigon: A Woman’s Enduring Love and Sacrifice

Posted by C Moon on November 30, 2007

Recently Yuna Kim, a Korean figure skater, won Cup of China (November 8-11, 2007) and Cup of Russia (November 22-25, 2007), both of which are the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. She selected Miss Saigon (from the musical Miss Saigon) for the short program. Her performance reminded me of the musical Miss Saigon, which I watched in September last year at the Sejong Center for Performing Arts in Seoul.

The scripts, lyrics, and music of the musical were written and composed by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. They were inspired by a photograph on a magazine, a Vietnamese woman giving up her daughter at Ho Chi Minh Airport for the daughter’s better future in the USA.

Miss Saigon successfully portrays pure and enduring love between an American GI and a Vietnamese woman toward the end of the Vietnamese war, a mother’s love sacrificing her life for her son, and a man’s dream of elevating his social status and gaining entry to America, and grief from the war.

Miss Saigon conveys its themes exquisitely by blending seriousness with joyful satire. Pure love between Kim and Chris during the imminent fall of Saigon, the appearance of Viet Cong and Thuy, who is Kim’s intended husband in their early childhood, Kim’s enduring love for Chris, Kim’s struggle to give Tam a better life, and the problems that remained after the war are presented in a serious tone. In contrast, Engineer, who wants to raise his social status and seeks for a success in America, and Vietnamese bar girls, who wish to be picked up by GIs for the night, delivered their lyrics and music in a rather jocular way.

The musical presents a series of conflicts and tensions that capture the audience in a strained state of mind: Vietnamese and American as transaction parties, Vietnamese and Viet Cong as wartime enemies, Chris and Thuy as love rivals, Kim and Ellen as Chris’ Vietnamese and American wives, and Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City as the two contrasting names for a city. Each character reflects personalities that can be found easily in any society. For example, Engineer symbolizes the Vietnamese who is against Ho Chi Minh. He dearly wants the entry visa to America, the land of promise, and treats GIs nicely in order to get it, but revile against them when they do not give him what he wants. Kim and Ellen struggle for their love and neither can give up with her own rightful reasons. Kim’s love is not only toward Chris, but also toward her little son, Tam. Ellen heard about Kim, and understands Kim’s situation but also cannot give up her love for Chris and marriage, which lasted for years.

Miss Saigon mirrors a small society. While Engineer is driven by the hope for class elevation and American Dream, Thuy is driven by an ambition for success. Thuy betrayed Kim and her family to seek a position in the Communist government, and comes back to Kim to gain her love, despite the fact that he was the cause of her parents’ death. Ellen and Chris justify their thoughts of leaving Tam and Kim in Southeast Asia for their own relief. They do not consider other elements but their marriage, when they say that Kim will understand their decision.

The flow of the musical was flawlessly smooth with the active Engineer leading the story (that is, scenes and acts) forward. Engineer plays a dual role of a character with strong worldly desires and a coupler linking scenes and acts in a natural way.

There are many characters in the musical, wanting for something such as love and success, but the only character who actively seeks what he wants is Engineer. Others say that they want to achieve something, but the whole story is moving along by Engineer’s plan to make his way to America. For example, Engineer’s desire to get to America made possible Kim’s move from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok and Chris’ reunion with Kim. I wonder whether the musical would become stronger and more appealing if characters like Kim were more active in seeking their goals.

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Photo Credits: “Miss Saigon 08” by flickrsampaist on Flickr

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