The Language of the “Absurd”: The D/evaluation, Deviation and (Mis)use of Language in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

Karen C. Padilla 

Liberal Arts Department, San Beda College-Alabang


The article is a discourse analysis of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, thus exploring the language that exemplifies the Theatre of the Absurd. The study presents an evaluation of the absurd language by analyzing its devaluation. This demonstrates and foregrounds how the play radically and deliberately abuses and violates the Gricean Maxims and confuses Speech Acts so as to accentuate the play’s theme and effect of “absurdity.” Subsequent to examining selected characters’ utterances, it is concluded that there is an evidently high number of instances to which the play breaks the cooperative maxims, and likewise, there is an enormous number of events to which the play conveys the mismatch between speech act and the perlocutionary effects. Thus, the study expounds on the absurd subject and theme as reflected through the (mis)use of language. The paper accordingly reinforces the notion of absurdity: the “senselessness, purposelessness, and uncertainty” of human condition and existence as manifested through an equal repudiation of the rational, coherent, and discursive language. Furthermore, the study offers critical readings/interpretations parallel to the absurdist subjects of existence, uncertainty, time, loss of meaning and struggle for meaning-making. The study, therefore, delves into the linguistic and literary dimensions of the Absurd theater, contributing to the existing readings and interpretations of this literary piece, and likewise to the knowledge of Pragmatics as applied to a literary text. Various linguistic and literary tools can be further employed to probe the wide range of linguistic and theoretical issues involved in the literary domain.

Keywords: absurd theater, speech acts, conversational maxims, stylistics

Full Text: PDF
Philippine Copyright 2017

Suggested APA Citation: 
Padilla, Karen C. (2017). The Language of the “Absurd”: The D/evaluation, Deviation and (Mis)use of Language in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Tilamsik: The Southern Luzon Journal of Arts and Sciences, 9. 9-40.


Barnard, G. (1970). Samuel Beckett, a new approach : a study of the novels and plays. NY: Dodd, Mead.

Beckett, S. (1954). Wating for godot. NY: Grove Press.

Bloom, H. (2008). Bloom’s modern critical interpretations: Waiting for Godot. New Edition. NY: Infobase Publishing.

Ekberg, J. (2015). The myth of identity in modern drama. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Esslin, M. (1968). The theatre of the absurd. London: Pelican Books.

Fletcher, J. (1966). Samuel Beckett’s art. London: Chatto & Windu.

Gavins, J. (2013). Reading the absurd. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Kenner, H. (1973). A reader’s guide to Samuel Beckett. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Schechner,R. (2008). There’s lots of time in godot. In H. Bloom (Ed), Bloom’s modern critical interpretations: Waiting for godot. (71-92). NY: Infobase Publishing.

Short, M. (1996). Exploring the language of poems, plays and prose. London: Longman Limited.

Worton, M. (2008). Waiting for godot and endgame: theatre as text. In H. Bloom (Ed), Bloom’s modern critical interpretations: Waiting for Godot. (71-92). NY: Infobase Publishing.

Yule, G. (2006). The study of language. NY: Cambridge University Press.