Literature Study GuidesWaiting For GodotAct 2 Vladimir And Estragon Return Summary

Waiting for Godot | Study Guide

Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot | Act 2 (Vladimir and Estragon Return) | Summary



As Act 2 begins, Vladimir arrives and examines the tree, which now has four or five leaves, and Estragon's abandoned boots. While he waits for Estragon, he sings a song about a dog that is beaten to death. When Estragon arrives, he is angry at Vladimir for letting him go—he has been beaten again—and for seeming to be happy without him. They wonder if they should part, but Vladimir says Estragon needs him. He would have stopped the beating by stopping Estragon from doing whatever it was that caused it. They declare themselves happy, even it if it's not true. What to do? Wait for Godot.

Vladimir reminds Estragon of Pozzo and Lucky, whom he barely remembers, and of a time they supposedly picked grapes in the Macon area of France, which Estragon denies. Perhaps they should part. Estragon suggests Vladimir just kill him, "like the other." They talk so they don't hear "all the dead voices," but they soon run out of things to say. They continue to wait. Passing the time, they make nonsensical statements, contradict each other, ask questions, and debate whether it is terrible to have thought, concluding they "could have done without it."


The motif of duality embedded in the structure of the play becomes apparent from the opening of Act 2, which is essentially a replay of Act 1. In many ways, this new day is a mirror image of the previous day—this time, Vladimir arrives first. The reflection is not exact, however. Estragon, more emotional this time, gives in to the embrace Vladimir offered in Act 1, and for the first time an emotional display is not followed by a rejection.

The song Vladimir sings is recursive—he traps himself in a circular structure in which the first stanza leads to the second stanza, which leads back to the first stanza—echoing how he and Estragon are trapped in their routine of waiting for Godot. Each day is the same, as if the same day is repeating again and again. Because Vladimir can never finish the song, it trails off into nonsense, illustrating the lack of meaning and purpose in life. In another way, the song reflects Vladimir's feelings about Estragon being beaten over and over again.

Vladimir and Estragon might be two halves of a whole, but they don't always get along. Much of the dysfunction in their relationship is evident in this section. In a way, Vladimir seems happier without Estragon and casually insults him when he is around, although he shows concern for him and misses him as well. He seems to feel responsible for Estragon, whom he considers unable to take care of himself. (He is sure Estragon did something to deserve being beaten, absurdly blaming the victim.) They repeatedly consider parting ways but never manage to do so. Estragon says, "The best thing would be to kill me, like the other"—mirroring Pozzo saying in Act I, of "creatures" like Lucky who can't be driven away, "The best thing would be to kill them." Estragon's statement suggests that only death can part him and Vladimir.

Estragon's conversation is noticeably focused on decay and death at the beginning of Act 2, beginning with his song about the dogs building a tomb for a dog that was beaten to death by a cook. When Vladimir starts to point out changes in their location, Estragon says "Everything oozes" (rather than "changes") and speaks of pus. He refers to the world as a pile of garbage and asks Vladimir, "Tell me about the worms!" The decline of religion seems to be implied again when Estragon suggests that Vladimir kill him "like the other ... Like billions of others," and Vladimir replies, "To every man his little cross. ... Till he dies. ... And is forgotten." They both seem to fear and be disgusted by death, but they acknowledge that staying together comforts them. They talk both to fill the time and to not hear the dead voices.

Their conversation about thought, aside from the dark images of misery and corpses, is absurdly contradictory. Vladimir maintains, "What is terrible is to have thought." After deciding, however, that they "must have thought a little," he decides "it's not the worst ... But we could have done without it." They conclude the conversation by repeating "que voulez-vous" (French for "what do you want").

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