When I started to read novels, I began journeying to places that did not exist and I met people who did not exist. But it all did exist, somehow, in my mind, and I think it was this that got me hooked.
I became in love with the feeling that, by the end of a novel, I knew the characters; and I myself was transformed somehow, having gone through an adventure and experienced what the characters experienced. I was there with Lyra and her daemon in their rescue mission to save Roger, and with them in their fight to stop Mrs. Coulter’s horrible experiments in The Golden Compass. I knew Jonas, who was so different from others in his society, burdened with the truth about “releasing” of older persons and sick children in The Giver.
At first, it was mostly about the adventures and the characters. It became more, though, my junior year in High School. My English teacher opened my mind to symbolism in the text and the depth of meaning that needed to be sought out. It was no longer just about the plot, but about what the text said about humanity in general.
My senior year, I took a literature course with the same teacher I had my junior year. One day, at the start of class, she put up on the board a large white piece of poster paper on which was drawn in black marker the setting of the play we were about to read. A bare tree, on top of a black line, representing the “country road.” She gave no indication as to what the play was about. She had already assigned the reading parts, setting aside four desks at the front of class for the four readers. She told us nothing except “this is like nothing you have ever read.” And then we started.
The play was Waiting for Godot. I was confused at first. What did this mean? Why was nothing happening? Though I was confused, I got the sense that this must mean something, and whatever it was, it was profound. After reading Waiting for Godot, I bought an anthology of Beckett’s works, including his plays, short stories, and poetry. I looked up other absurdist writers. I began reading Franz Kafka, Eugene Ionesco, Eugene O’Neil, Harold Pinter and Albert Camus.
The absurdists are different. Their texts are ambiguous and abstract. Their language is disjointed, fragmented, and unclear. The plots seem to be about “nothing,” where drama rarely happens, and what is emphasized and drawn out is the mundane and “boring.”
As Terry Niehuis, an associate professor of English at Western Carolina University said, in his article An Overview of Waiting for Godot: "The play has a beginning, but the beginning seems somewhat arbitrary because what happened before the beginning does not seem to be important.The play has an end, but the end seems to recall the beginning and create a sense of circularity rather than the traditional sense of closure that conventional stories generally provide. So Beckett's play could perhaps be described as 'all middle.' This, of course, reinforces the Absurdist or Existentialist idea of human life as having no clear purpose or direction, of life being an interminable waiting for a sense of purpose or closure that is not likely to ever arrive."
My searching out existential and absurd works continued. I did research on my own. Anytime I could choose the topic of a paper for a class, I chose to write about something to do with literature, usually the absurdists. I wrote about the French absurdists for French I, existential philosophy found in the works of the existentialists for Intro to Philosophy, and so on.
This is how I came to love absurdist literature. Why I love absurdist literature is another question, and a harder one to answer. It is the searching that I like, but it is more than that. It is seeking out truth, the meaning of truth, and about what we can know. It is about everything--about humanity, what it is to be human, existence, isolation, and questioning. This is why I will always be fascinated, maybe even obsessed, with absurdist works.
Niehuis, Terry. "An overview of Waiting for Godot." Drama for Students. Detroit: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Feb. 2010.