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The Influence of World War II on Art and Drama in the Context of Waiting for Godot.

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Regan Mah

on 15 October 2012

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Transcript of The Influence of World War II on Art and Drama in the Context of Waiting for Godot.

One of the largest and most destructive global wars in history. Background Info on World War II Effect of World War II Philosophical Context •The invention and use of the first atomic bomb by the United States against Japan demonstrated the shift to the downgrading moral attitude towards the enemy as the values of lives are disregarded in any war tactics. This profanation of morality was what existentialist attempted to address in its questioning of the changing perceptions of the significance of individual lives. The use of the atomic bomb showed human beings solely as statistical casualties to whose lives holds purpose or any meaningful contribution. Influence of World War II on Ideas and Philosophical Thinking In Context to Themes in Waiting for Godot By Regan Mah and Gia Valacco The Influence of World War II on Art and Drama in the Context of Waiting for Godot It officially started on September 1, 1939 and ended on September 2, 1945. Many nations participated, including the great powers that formed the two main opposing military alliances: the Allies (Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, China and the United States) and the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan). Over 100 million served in the military units fighting on land, sea and air. Causes of WWII The losing countries suffered from heavy reparation payments for WWI. As a result, lands were confiscated, resentment grew along with desire for revenge. The treaty further provoked and angered the Germans, "justifying" Hitler's early aggression. The Treaty of Versailles Being a weak league from the start, it lacked the power to prevent Hitler from breaking the Treaty of Versailles.

In addition, it failed to achieve disarmament, which led to an arms race between the major power. In the end, it is inevitable to use these military equipments.

The League of Nation came to an end when the majority power left the league, realizing the starting of an unpreventable war. The League of Nations failed to keep peace Economic Struggles Political Movement After World War I, many countries were in debt. The losing countries encountered problems paying reparations. In the same manners, the winning countries borrowed excessively from the United States for military purposes. Consequently, inflation hit many countries, leaving people in poverty. In the 1930s, the Great Depression broke out in the USA, and spread to Europe, preventing the continent's recovery. Ultimately, this was the first step in promoting on the reliance of dictatorship in Germany and Italy. During WWII, were are two popular political movement: communism and fascism.

Communism, known as the Left, and promotes the idea of extreme equality, while Fascism, known as the Right and promoted the corporate dominance of the marketplace over the rights of workers.

With the popularity of these political movements, many dictators such as Hitler led their countries aggressively to take over the unstable Europe. Because of WWII, participants placed their economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort.

Distinction between civilian and military became blurred

Events such as the Holocaust and the use of nuclear weapons in warfare resulted the mass deaths of civilians. Emphasizes the existence of an individual person as free and responsible.
One can determine their own development and discover a personal identity and meaning of life. Analysis of existence and the way humans find themselves existing in the world. Existentialism Nihilism Characteristics:
• Human free will
• Human nature is chosen through life choices
• A person is best when struggling against their individual nature, fighting for life
• Decisions are not without stress and consequences
• Personal responsibility and discipline is crucial
• Society is unnatural and its traditional religious and secular rules are arbitrary Existentialism begins the philosophical thinking of individual experiences. You cannot rely on moral and scientific thinking to truly understand human existence.

Philosopher influenced by existentialism question the nature of existing. Absurdism

Absurdism captured the sentiment of the nineteen-forties in its isolated conception of humanity.

The Post-World War II Absurdist movements centered on the idea that life is irrational, illogical, incongruous, and without reason Questions the significance of an individual’s role in his or her own life relative to the importance of their actions on the world at large.
Irrationality of life and the impeding ‘post-life’ or ‘afterlife.’

“ That which is devoid of purpose….Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man[sic] is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless.” Both life and death are irrational
Pointless and absurd
Existence is intangible Nonsensical, irrational aspects of life.
Attempts to formulate a method of rationalizing those irrational aspects in our uncertain world. The negation of meaningful aspects of life. (Life has no meaning) Life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.
Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly created.
In a metaphysical form it means knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist. Characteristics:
• Extreme skepticism, denies all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth. (extreme pessimism / radical skepticism)
• Nothingness or nonexistence. (nothing can be known or communicated, and all values are baseless) In Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon are always portrayed to be waiting for a mysterious Mr. Godot who never appears. Through their dialogue, Beckett enacts the essential concerns and futility of the mid-century human condition. The breakdown in the very foundation of culture is allegorized: Mid-century humanity stood in a crisis in the areas of philosophy religion, family, sex, government, and economics. Friedrich Nietzsche argued that the corrosive effects of nihilism would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. •After the World War, the world underwent catastrophic changes because of the issues in the field of social, political and economic of the World War II Era
existence began to seem absurd and the plight of the individual became futile. •The rise of fascism, the Holocaust and other horrifying and traumatic experiences from WWII inspired the philosophical concept of existentialism
Highlighted the insignificance of an individual’s actions
Showed individual utilized as a pawn in political schemes
Individual themselves have no inherent or egoistic purpose in existing
Over 70,000,000 deaths resulted from World War II •The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 leveled the cities and caused 80,000 and 70,000 deaths respectively. Even with the knowledge of already winning the war against Japan and the witness of the bombs' devastating effects, the United States Government was determined to continue and their decisions are finalized at the Potsdam conference on August 3, 1945, three days before the bombing of Hiroshima. This was an example of choosing to experiment with new technology even though there would be the moral implication of causing unnecessary human casualties. To what extent are we personally responsible for our lives?

Why did Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot? Did they believe in the existence of Godot or did they rather stand around to fill the void and kill time.

Why did World War 2 turn the art world upside down in a way other catastrophes did not?

Can art without traditional form, or structure still be considered art?
Guiding Questions Faith in Religion Circular and Repetitive Life (Uncertainty in Life) World War II's Influence on Drama Traditionally, theater provides a standard intellectual and emotionally questioning for the audiences. Consequently, it helps maintain social control by defusing human emotions that might cause disruption to the status quot. In Waiting for Godot, rather than providing an emotional safety valve for the audience, Beckett made it unbearable for the audience by building up those pressures. In the absurdity of the play, the audience is brought face to face with its own spiritual schizophrenia. The viewer is confronted with the madness of the human condition. In observing Vladimir and Estragon wasting their lives waiting in vain for a Mr. Godot who never comes, viewers catch a reflection of the dull routine and self-deception of their own lives. Waiting for Godot reflects an era in which traditional frames of reference were no longer viable.

Concept of the death of God, and people struggling with new theologies are introduced. The existential themes of alienation and emptiness are mirrored in the play. There’s reconsideration on philosophical and religious ideas. The foundation of society has shifted and artists & playwrights explored ideological conflict in their works. (The world has change and could never be the same again after the millions of deaths and the droppings of the bombs Of course, Beckett brightens up the mood with satiric humor. It subverts what should be tragically nihilistic into a comedic romp, enjoyable for the audience and creating relief from the philosophical questions The progress of play is circular and non-linear. Unlike traditional theater, this repetitive nature of the play presents a more realistic version of life. Through this use theater of the absurd, Beckett captures the absurdity of life. Beckett presents doubts and uncertainty in its beginning scene. By telling us nothing of the characters in the beginning, we do not understand their existence though nor do they. The opening scene displays the continuity of the style. The audience cannot be sure of what is happening, because it seems even the characters are not sure. We are locked in their replication of the uncertainty of the era. Continuing, everything in act I was repeated in act II, the coming and going of Pozzo, Lucky and the boy. This repetitive style further reinforces the circular structure of the play. The way the main character moving back and forth, the ambiguous dialogue and meaningless plot portray and contrast the circular cycle style to the repeated mistakes made by humankind in history. Because of the cruelty and lack of moral demonstrated in WWII, people begin to question the belief of people having innately good intention . Religion is questioned. How could a rational god allow such atrocities to occur? The decline of the necessity for religion in modern and post-modern society holds its origin in World War II as it catalyzed the failure of religion in trying to explain the reason for existence The failure of religion leaves the world with a perspective of the future categorized by death and destruction. There were turmoil and doubt on the religious foundation. The existentialist idea of waiting for God, who never comes is controversial and confronting for audiences at the time. In the play, even though there's the connection of the boy, the audience is left with the feeling that Godot will never come. In the same manner, God "abandoned" people during World War II. Godot left the two characters trapped in the repeating endless circle of doing nothing. As Vladimir's stated : A well? Shall we go? -They do not move.- Their action is viewed as vulnerable and pathetic but captures the uncertainty of the era particularly in the last scene, the wonder of the future of the human race. The uncertainty , cultural ruin and the physical devastation of post WW II Europe is captured by Beckett through both the apocalyptic setting of the play and the issues explored through his construction of his character What is the purpose of life? Visual Art Divorced from traditional forms
Lack of a recognisable subject did not mean lack of meaning
"simple expression of a complex thought" broad brushstrokes and other evidence of physical action, kinetic energy
inspired by existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre "There is no reality except in action" "Purest" kind of painting uncomplicated by subject matter, illusionism or even gesture
Use of colours close in tone and intensity, highly simplified, and large formats total impermanence of any values
shook the validity of any conventions
highlighted the precariousness of human life and its fundamental meaninglessness and arbitrariness
absurdity had become part of the average person's daily existence.
It was no longer possible to keep using traditional art forms and standards that had ceased being convincing and lost their validity
surreal, illogical, conflictless and plotless
also called anti theater Abstract Expressionism
Gesture Painting
Colour Field Painting
Theatre of the Absurd
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