Literature Study GuidesWaiting For GodotAct 1 A Boy With A Message Summary

Waiting for Godot | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot | Act 1 (A Boy with a Message) | Summary



After Pozzo and Lucky depart, Vladimir comments that they have changed, claiming they had met before and he only pretended not to recognize them. However, when Estragon questions him, he becomes less certain of his claims. A boy arrives and delivers a message from Godot—he will not come this evening, but "surely tomorrow." The boy claims not to have come yesterday, although it seems the men have heard this message before. The boy says he tends Godot's goats and his brother tends the sheep. Godot beats his brother but not him. Vladimir asks the boy to tell Godot he has seen him and Estragon, confirming he has indeed seen them, and the boy runs away.

As the moon rises, Estragon says it is pale from the effort of climbing the heavens and gazing on "the likes of us." Having removed both his boots, he decides to leave them where they are. He defends his decision by saying Christ went barefoot—he says he has always compared himself to Christ. They consider waiting by the tree until tomorrow but decide they must find shelter. As they prepare to leave, Estragon asks to be reminded to bring rope tomorrow. He then reminisces about a time when Vladimir saved his life and how long they have been together, wondering if they would have been better off alone, but it is too late to part now. After Vladimir says, "Let's go," neither moves.


The arrival of the boy with a message from Godot only increases the uncertainty. He calls Vladimir "Mr. Albert," raising the possibility that the message isn't even meant for Vladimir or Estragon (or that they aren't actually named Vladimir and Estragon). Their questions reveal how little they know about Godot, and the boy's answers are equally unenlightening. Much of the time, the boy merely confirms answers Vladimir has suggested with his questions (what would be called "leading the witness" in a courtroom). This raises the question of whether they are actually learning anything about Godot or simply confirming their own assumptions.

Another Biblical allusion appears in this discussion about Godot. The boy tells them he watches Godot's sheep and his brother watches the goats, seeming to reference the New Testament allegory in which Christ separates the sheep, representing people who will be saved, from the goats, representing people who will be damned. But the play seems to reverse the allegory. It is the boy's brother, who tends the "blessed" sheep, whom Godot beats, while the boy who tends the "damned" goats, is not beaten. This reversal could suggest that Godot is not God—perhaps even that he is God's opposite—or simply emphasize the pointlessness of religion and concepts of salvation and damnation.

Vladimir's message to Godot—that the boy has seen them—seems simple but reveals that one of the things Vladimir and Estragon are hoping for from Godot is proof of their own existence. If Godot sees and acknowledges them, their existence is confirmed and their waiting has meaning. Because Godot never comes, their existence remains uncertain.

Although Estragon and Vladimir agree they must leave for the night, Act 1 ends with them absurdly standing motionless by the tree. They must leave at some point, because we see them both arrive again at the beginning of Act 2, but how or when they depart is left obscure, and it doesn't really matter anyway because they inevitably return. They are tragically trapped in this place and in time, waiting for someone or something that never comes and may not even exist. They are essentially trapped by their own expectations.

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