Waiting for Godot | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Course Hero. "Waiting for Godot Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Waiting-for-Godot/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, October 27). Waiting for Godot Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Waiting-for-Godot/

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Course Hero. "Waiting for Godot Study Guide." October 27, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Waiting-for-Godot/.

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Course Hero, "Waiting for Godot Study Guide," October 27, 2016, accessed September 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Waiting-for-Godot/.

Waiting for Godot | Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) | Summary

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Summary

While Vladimir is gone, Estragon and Pozzo watch the sun set. When Vladimir returns, Pozzo makes sure he has their attention before delivering a long speech about the twilight sky, which he forgets the conclusion of, until he says it turns to night. After fishing for compliments for his performance, Pozzo expresses a desire to do something for "these honest fellows who are having such a dull, dull time." Appearing not to hear Estragon's request for money, he offers to have Lucky perform for them; Vladimir and Estragon request that he dance and think.

Lucky's brief dance is ridiculous, suggesting to Estragon and Vladimir that he is in pain, perhaps from a hard bowel movement. Forgetting that Pozzo has already answered the question, Estragon again asks why Lucky can't put down the bags. Because he is not currently holding them, however, the question is declared invalid. After Lucky's hat is replaced (he can't think without it), he gives a long speech that sounds like nonsense, filled with repetition and disjointed thoughts. His speech seems to pain and anger the others, and they attack and drag Lucky down—pulling off his hat—as he shouts out the end of his performance of thinking.

After Lucky is revived and returns to his role as slave, Pozzo declares his watch missing. Unable to hear it by listening to Pozzo's heart, Vladimir and Estragon agree it is lost. Pozzo finally decides he left it at home, apparently forgetting that he had it earlier. He says goodbye to Vladimir and Estragon but is unable to leave until he backs up and drives Lucky forward with the whip. With much shouting from Pozzo, they continue on their way.

Analysis

Time, or lack thereof, comes to the forefront in this section. When Pozzo references his schedule and says he has to leave, Vladimir declares, "Time has stopped." Time does seem to have stopped for Estragon and Vladimir—they wait for Godot today as they waited "yesterday" and have perhaps been waiting for months or years. By the end of the section, time seems to have stopped for Pozzo as well: he can't find his watch (which he last placed in his pocket) because he, Vladimir, and Estragon can't hear it ticking, perhaps because it has stopped. The characters' uncertainty about time will increase in Act 2.

Lucky is completely silent in the play, except for his thinking in this section. As a slave, he literally has no voice of his own except when commanded. Even though expressing himself seems to break him out of his silent slavery—showing hints of independence and passion—doing so overwhelms him, and he must be reminded of his role as a slave to function again.

Lucky's speech sounds like complete nonsense, but it actually contains elements of satire and a profound philosophical statement. In a parody of scholarly communication, he begins with a proposition: "Given the existence ... of a personal God ...." He goes on to describe God with three qualities: "divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia."

  • Apathia is a synonym of apathy, or lack of caring.
  • Athambia is the quality of being imperturbable, or unable to be bothered.
  • Aphasia is a language disorder caused by brain damage that can result in problems of speaking, including using made-up words and stringing them together with real words without making sense, which impairs communication and understanding. (Lucky's speech demonstrates aphasic qualities.)

In Christianity, God is associated with threes, and the three qualities above may parody the three traditional divine qualities of omniscience (knowing all), omnipotence (being all powerful), and omnipresence (being everywhere).They also show Lucky's initial proposition to be verbally ironic—he is actually describing the lack of a caring, personal God.

Lucky quickly goes from describing God to focusing, in the middle of his speech, on destruction (the blasting of "hell to heaven") and decline (pining, wasting, and dwindling). In other words, the loss of God is leading to humanity's decline and death. The final section of Lucky's speech is filled with bleak imagery of cold water, barren earth littered with stones (the Irish region of Connemara is notoriously stony), and skulls (the ultimate symbol of death). The structure of Lucky's speech likewise declines as he goes on, until he is primarily repeating a collection of words over and over.

The names mentioned in the speech are mostly parodies of scholars and their ideas. Two names, Fartov and Belcher, call to mind the gaseous outputs from the two ends of the digestive tract. Some of Lucky's repeated sounds also resemble slang words for feces. These names, combined with Lucky's rambling and random speech patterns, form a stinging commentary on the nature of academic discourse—it consists primarily of nonsensical, even made-up, ideas couched in incomprehensible language, ultimately amounting to human excrement. Humanity's search for meaning has produced nothing but waste and is destined to fail.

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