Literature Study GuidesWaiting For GodotAct 2 Different Boy Same Message Summary

Waiting for Godot | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot | Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message) | Summary



Once Pozzo and Lucky are gone, Vladimir wakes Estragon from his nap. Vladimir thinks Pozzo might not have been blind—he seemed to look at him—and Estragon wonders if he was actually Godot. Vladimir says no but with declining certainty. Vladimir speaks to himself, thinking he is perhaps sleeping. He wonders what he will remember tomorrow about today and asks, "in all that what truth will there be?" Life is difficult and painful, but "habit is a great deadener." Meanwhile, unable to remove his boots, Estragon falls asleep again.

A boy arrives—he doesn't recognize Vladimir and says he didn't come yesterday. Again using leading questions, Vladimir prompts the boy to deliver the same message as the previous night: Mr. Godot cannot come tonight, but will tomorrow "without fail." When questioned, the boy thinks Godot "does nothing" and has a white beard. He says his brother, who may or may not have come before, is sick. Vladimir again asks the boy to tell Godot he's seen them, demanding a confirmation that he has, but the boy flees without replying.

The sun sets, the moon rises, and Estragon wakes up. Learning that Godot once again didn't come, he suggests going far away and dropping (giving up on) him, but Vladimir replies, "He'd punish us." They again consider hanging themselves from the tree, but the cord Estragon uses as a belt breaks when they test it. Estragon doesn't seem to notice that without a belt his pants have fallen down. Estragon suggests again that they part ways, but Vladimir declares they will return tomorrow with a rope to hang themselves—unless Godot comes to save them. They agree to go, and neither moves.


While Estragon struggles with his boots and takes a nap, Vladimir delivers one last monologue, pondering their existence. After Estragon's suggestion that Vladimir dreamed Pozzo could see, Vladimir wonders if he really might be sleeping—perhaps this place and their purpose don't exist. He ponders what he will remember tomorrow, if tomorrow is real, recognizing that they will repeat their same pattern over again. Maybe existence really is as Pozzo described it. And the audience may realize ultimately that Vladimir and Estragon are not real; they are made-up characters in a play.

Vladimir restates the birth-to-grave image, except with more time between the two—the gravedigger has time to linger over his forceps (instruments of birth), and "we have time to grow old." Unfortunately, this additional time doesn't add any meaning or purpose to existence; it allows only for cries of suffering before habit deadens the pain. This is their existence—they are suffering and want to escape, but habit deadens the pain enough to keep them waiting for Godot. Watching Estragon sleep and pitying Estragon's inability to remember, Vladimir considers that someone else may have that perspective on him, pitying Vladimir for his unawareness: "At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping." As Vladimir says these lines, the audience is looking at him; who, then, is watching the audience, pitying them for their incomprehension of existence? Vladimir's thought thus opens a recursive prospect, just like his endless song of the dog at the beginning of the act. At this point he cries out that he can't go on and then exclaims, "What have I said," perhaps rejecting this view of existence for being too painful to bear.

If there were any doubt before, the boy's arrival with the message that Godot will not come tonight makes it clear that the promise that Godot will arrive "tomorrow" is empty. Perhaps he doesn't even exist and is just some sort of shared delusion. The boy's description of Godot having a white beard again seems to call to mind classical depictions of God (and Lucky's depiction of God in his Act 1 speech), but the boy may be simply fulfilling Vladimir's expectations. Vladimir once again tries to confirm his existence by asking the boy if he has seen him, but his desperation frightens the boy off without answering his question, leaving him with no reassurance whatsoever.

Vladimir believes Godot will punish them if they try to drop (abandon) him. However, his belief is the only hint of potential punishment, suggesting that his own expectations rather than some actual threat of punishment are keeping them waiting. Vladimir also says that when Godot comes they will be saved, although from what is not defined. Tragically, they could save themselves from the endless waiting by simply leaving. But by investing all his fears and hopes in Godot, Vladimir has actually trapped them, eloquently demonstrating the folly of seeking some sort of larger meaning in existence.

Beckett turns a classic comedy gag on its head with Estragon's fallen-down pants. In traditional comedy, this kind of indecent exposure usually causes extreme social embarrassment, but Vladimir and Estragon take no notice of it whatsoever. It is a final demonstration of the absurdity of their existence that they continue to talk about hanging themselves, even testing the cord that was Estragon's belt, with Estragon's pants around his ankles. Estragon is so oblivious that he thinks Vladimir is telling him to take his pants off when he finally tells him to pull them back up.

They will return again to waiting for Godot tomorrow, guaranteeing that they will remain stuck in their purposeless cycle of waiting, probably endlessly, into the future. They remain unmoving, despite having agreed to go, until the curtain falls, powerfully illustrating the absurd nature of their purposeless existence.

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