Author Archives: jcastong

The Importance of Perception and Portrayal


Georg Büchner’s unfinished play, Woyzeck, has been subject to many attempts, on the behalf of experts, to recreate a final version that would be similar to the one Büchner would have created. These recreations depend fully on how these experts comprehend the play and how they wish to recreate it. It is interesting then, that Büchner’s work itself seems to play with similar themes of perception and portrayal. We can see that perception and portrayal have an impact on the communication of ideas, which is consistent theme seen in various forms of media.


Woyzeck as a character seems to have an alternate perception of reality that affects his experience of the real world. Throughout the play he has hallucinations and talks about seeing things and hearing things that others do not hear. The other characters do not understand Woyzeck’s hallucinations. Marie even responds to Woyzeck saying, “ your out of your mind,” and “ you’re delirious,” (142). The only one that seems to try to help Woyzeck is Andres who recommends that Woyzeck go to the infirmary. The other characters did not understand Woyzeck and how he perceived the world, which caused many to treat him harshly. This illustrates the notion that the way that someone sees the world dramatically affects the way in which he/she is perceived by others. This is comparable to media because media is a powerful source of portrayal. The way in which one given form of media demonstrates its understanding of the world may be completely different than another, which contributes to the importance of the ideas of perception and portrayal that Büchner plays with.


Themes of perception and portrayal are also seen in the conversation between Woyzeck and the Captain about virtue. The Captain explains that he thinks Woyzeck has no virtue, and is not a virtuous man. To this, Woyzeck replies, “ Yes, Cap’n, virtue! I haven’t figured it out yet. You see, us common people, we don’t have virtue, we act like nature tells us – but if I was a gentleman, and had a hat and a watch an overcoat and could talk refined, then I’d be virtuous, too,” (142). Here, Büchner is further showing the power of portrayal. If Woyzeck was able to dress nicely and look like a gentleman, than the Captain would not criticize him for having no virtue, regardless of whether he had it or not. This continues to tie back to media. As a form of portraying messages, different types of media can result in different perceptions of the information.


Various experts continue to piece their interpretations of what a finished form of this play should be. It is interesting to think of these subsequent versions of Woyzeck as various portrayals of Büchner’s original version, which was never finished. Büchner seems to highlight in his work, that perception and portrayal play a key role in an individual’s world experience. The various attempts to finish Büchner’s work will rely on the ways in which these expert’s perceived Büchners writing and how they chose to portray these ideas in subsequent versions of Woyzeck.


1. How might different forms of media affect the ways in which information is perceived?

2. Is Büchner trying to portray Woyzeck as a cold blooded murderer? or does his portrayal of Woyzeck as a character almost make the reader feel sympathy for him?

The Avant-Garde: Samuel Beckett as a Dramatist and Symbolist

When he wrote Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett established himself on the forefront of the avant-garde. Becket did so by experimenting with avant-garde techniques such as dramatism and symbolism. The play itself seems to expose the concept of time in relation to the human experience.


The play focuses on Vladimir and Estragon as they wait and wait with no obvious progress towards their goal in meeting up with Godot. This seems like a rather boring topic for a play. However, Beckett is able to squeeze meaning out of the non-action of waiting. Zarilli makes it clear that dramatists often dramatize a “photogenic ‘slice of life,’ with all its banality, cynicism, sentimentality, and violence,” ( Zarilli, 357). This is exactly what Beckett is doing in Waiting for Godot. Becket dramatizes waiting in a way that exposes the concept of time and a pessimistic view on the cycle of life. Vladimir and Estragon continue to wait and wait but these periods seem to be separated into different stages. At first, they wait alone, and eventually they encounter Pozzo and Lucky. They then go back to waiting alone and eventually encounter the boy. I got the idea that Beckett was attempting to relate these stages of waiting to different stages of life. In doing this, Becket was essentially illustrating life as many different non-productive stages of waiting until ultimately ended with death. For example, a point when Vladimir and Estragon consider ending their wait is when Estragon suggests that they should “ hang ourselves immediately!” ( ACT I, 236). The two characters discussed hanging themselves as a means of ending their wait, further illustrating Beckett’s idea that life is a series of stages of pointless waiting that only ends with death.

Zarilli notes that playwrights often times “evoke a mood of mystery through multiple symbols,”( Zarilli, 358). Perhaps the most prominent symbol used by Beckett is the tree, which is where Vladimir and Estragon have been told to wait for Godot. Vladimir and Estragon continually wait at the tree, which in many ways represented life. In the second act, the tree grows leaves, which depicts the tree as being alive. However, the tree is an immovable object, which always seems to be waiting. This is how Becket uses the tree to further represent life as continual waiting. The tree is a natural representation of life because it seems to change and grow leaves, yet it is always still and continually waiting until it dies. This further parallels the situation of Vladimir and Estragon and strengthens Beckett’s comparison between life and waiting.




  1. Is Samuel Beckett’s portrayal of life as continual waiting until death accurate? Does his view here have any connection to his situation as a writer in post WWII Europe?
  2. Symbolism can often have multiple meanings, and different members of the audience may understand certain symbols differently. What other meanings does the symbol of the tree have?
  3. In what ways do we see dramatism and symbolism today? Do you see dramatism or symbolism on TV or on social media?

– Jordon Castonguay