Literature Study GuidesWaiting For GodotAct 2 Conversation Kills Time Summary

Waiting for Godot | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot | Act 2 (Conversation Kills Time) | Summary



Estragon and Vladimir struggle to keep up the conversation, and Vladimir finally remembers his earlier observation about the tree—it now has leaves. Vladimir believes it was bare when they were there yesterday, but Estragon maintains that yesterday they were "in another compartment ... there's no lack of void." Estragon only vaguely remembers Pozzo and Lucky. Vladimir points to the festering wound on Estragon's shin from Lucky kicking him and Estragon's boots as proof of his theory. But Estragon finds the boots are a different color and no longer pinch him. Vladimir suggests that someone else took Estragon's boots and left his own boots there. Estragon takes a nap but quickly is awoken by a nightmare, which Vladimir refuses to hear about. Bored, Estragon wants to go, but Vladimir reminds him they are waiting for Godot.

After Vladimir snaps at him, Estragon decides to leave anyway, but he is distracted when Vladimir finds Lucky's hat. Following a comical circular exchange of the three hats between the two of them, Vladimir ends up wearing Lucky's hat while Estragon wears his own. Vladimir plays at being Lucky, causing Estragon to finally leave. He returns almost immediately, however, afraid "they're coming" from all directions. Vladimir is excited it might be Godot but doesn't see anyone, placating Estragon. They maintain their conversation by being excessively polite, insulting one another, making up, awkwardly exercising a bit, and finally crying to God to pity them.


Vladimir's observation that the tree now has leaves calls into question how much time has passed since Act 1. He insists it was only yesterday, but it seems enough time might have passed for a change of season. Some things, however, seem enough like the end of Act 2 to support Vladimir's theory: Lucky's hat and Estragon's boots are pretty much where they were left, although Estragon thinks the boots are different. Vladimir tries to supply a theory for how Estragon's boots changed, but the theory is illogical—only a person with smaller feet would fit in Estragon's boots. Later in the act, the "new" boots fit Estragon, making the point that neither character is equipped or has the energy to really understand reality. Estragon's relatively fresh wound also seems to point to the shorter time frame, unless he has recently had another encounter resulting in a similar wound. Maybe he is always wounded.

Ultimately, the question of time remains unresolved and uncertain. Estragon retains almost no memory of events from Act 1 and claims they were in "another compartment" yesterday. His follow-up comment, "There's no lack of void," shows a momentary recognition that existence is essentially without meaning or purpose. Wherever they were, there was nothing there, and the idea of a compartment being in a void is illogical; a void by definition has nothing in it, just empty space.

There is an interesting discrepancy between the description of the leaves on the tree in the stage directions at the beginning of Act 2 and Vladimir's description in this section. Vladimir says the tree is "covered in leaves," while Beckett's stage directions are that it have only "four or five leaves." It's possible the differences arise from different purposes. The sparse distribution of leaves in the stage direction continues the feeling of barrenness created by the bare tree in Act 1, whereas Vladimir's description emphasizes the change from Act 1. And the disconnection between the visual reality and the description causes another element of absurdity.

In a postmodern gesture, Vladimir calls attention to the play as something made up. The effect is one of extending the play's uncertainties into the audience. Estragon makes several attempts to leave—to the right, then left, then backstage—each time forced back by numerous others who are visible only to him. Vladimir suggests trying to escape in the only other possible direction, the front. "There! Not a soul in sight!" says Vladimir of the theater before them, casting doubt on the existence of the audience. In a more traditional play, characters do not typically acknowledge the audience. In Bertolt Brecht's modernist The Threepenny Opera, a character talks directly to the audience about the play's happy ending, in order to draw a contrast with the audience's real world. In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir looks right at the audience and refuses to see them; the act calls attention to the artificiality of theatrical make-believe, while also suggesting that the audience's real world is like the play's world: a void offering no confirmation that existence is real.

Indeed, Vladimir has been searching for proof of his and Estragon's existence throughout the play. His latest use of reason and evidence to establish a concrete timeline is another attempt to establish proof, while Estragon seems to acknowledge that—at least temporarily—their existence may not be provable. Then, even Estragon seems to seek recognition from a higher power a moment later, when he asks, "Do you think God sees me?"

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