The character of Meursault
Uncertainty of time and date in Waiting for Godot contributes to the absurdist theme of the work. The barren setting provides no clues about time. This ambiguity is also suggested by the characters. For instance, in the first act Vladimir and Estragon are unsure of when they were to meet Godot. In reference to this, Estragon asks Vladimir, “But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? Or Monday? Or Friday?” This uncertainty is also shown when the characters try to recall the past. This is evident from Estragon’s inability in the second act to remember events that happened the previous day. Overall, these suggest that all events in life are so meaningless that when they occurred is irrelevant. This technique is used in the same way by Camus in The Outsider. The work opens with Meursault reflecting, “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” Like in Waiting for Godot this trivializes the importance of the events, challenging the notion that they have meaning.
The search for meaning
However, the message conveyed in The Outsider is more optimistic than the message in Waiting for Godot. This is because Vladimir and Estragon develop no awareness of the absurdity of their existence throughout the work. Consider the ending of the play. Vladimir asks Estragon, “Shall we go?” and Estragon replies, “Yes, let’s go,” yet they do not move. This shows that even at the end, they are still just as devoted to their futile search for meaning. In contrast, in the end of The Outsider Meursault comprehends the meaninglessness of life. He recognizes the “benign indifference of the world.” Upon this realization he “…felt that [he] had been happy and that [he] was happy again.” Therefore, Camus argues that happiness without meaning is possible and we should strive to embrace the absurd.