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Waiting for Godot | Discussion Questions 11 - 20

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In Waiting for Godot, Act 1 what do the characters' comments about the carrot and Pozzo's reaction to his second pipe suggest?

In Act 1 (Estragon and Vladimir), Estragon says the more he eats the carrot the worse it gets, and it was just a carrot to begin with. Vladimir replies that he is the opposite; he gets "used to the muck" as he goes along. As Pozzo smokes a second pipe in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive), he comments that the second pipe is not as sweet as the first, although it is still sweet. Although they are talking about specific experiences, these varying reactions seem to make larger statements about their varying attitudes toward life and existence. Estragon's reaction indicates his increasing disillusionment with his existence as it goes along, although he doesn't expect much to begin with. Pozzo seems to experience a similar disillusionment toward his repetitious life experiences, but he also holds on to some degree of satisfaction with life. Because Vladimir expects "the muck" of existence, it actually becomes more bearable for him as he goes along. Pleasure might be seen as meaning in life, and these reactions suggest that seeking meaning is bound to lead to disappointment.

What is the significance of Pozzo's vaporizer in Waiting for Godot?

In Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive) and Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Pozzo sprays his throat with a vaporizer before answering questions about Lucky and making an extended speech. This repeated action lends a feeling of almost ceremonial preparation, calling attention to himself and creating the impression that he is going to say something of great importance. Of course when he does speak, his words don't live up to the expectation created by his contrived preparations, again pointing out the absurdity of his social pretentions. Like many people, he acts as if he is more important than he really is. The vaporizer is clearly linked with speaking for Pozzo, similar to the way in which the bowler hats are linked to thought. Pozzo doesn't seem to strictly need the vaporizer to speak as Lucky needs his hat to think, but he uses it when he wants to call particular attention to what he is saying. Significantly, the vaporizer does not appear in Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return) after Pozzo's social status has been reduced by his blindness.

What are the philosophical implications behind Pozzo's reasoning for why Lucky never puts down the bags in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive)?

Pozzo "reasons" in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive) that Lucky has the right to make himself comfortable by putting down the bags he holds, so the fact that he does not put them down must mean he chooses not to. This logic, however, is based on a false and absurd premise—it is not at all a given that Lucky has the right to put down the bags. Philosophically, Lucky may have the same right as any human being to exercise his will freely. As an apparent slave, however, bound by rope and on his way to be sold, Lucky does not have the power to make the choices Pozzo hypocritically imputes to him. Perhaps Pozzo would not object to Lucky's putting down the bags, but he certainly never encourages him to do so either, demonstrating a total lack of concern for Lucky's feelings. In fact, Pozzo claims Lucky is trying to take advantage of him by convincing Pozzo not to sell him. Behind all this rationalizing, Pozzo merely tries to dissimulate his culpability in Lucky's lot.

What is the effect of Pozzo's saying that Lucky drives him mad in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive)?

When in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive) Pozzo says he and Lucky have been together nearly 60 years, Vladimir and Estragon become outraged that he would want to get rid of such an "old and faithful servant." But then Pozzo seems to break down, saying the way Lucky "goes on" drives him mad. The timing of Pozzo's outburst seems convenient for moving the blame away from him, and it is supremely hypocritical of Pozzo to complain about Lucky's decline after inflicting years of abuse on him. Nonetheless, Vladimir and Estragon begin abusing Lucky for his "mistreatment" of Pozzo. Pozzo, meanwhile, recovers himself, tells the others to forget what he has said, and, in a comic reversal, denies he is the kind of "man that can be made to suffer," ending the discussion. This exchange reveals the absurdity of human social conventions. Vladimir and Estragon's sympathy for Lucky is shown to lack any basis in principle because they switch their sympathies to Pozzo as soon as he acts upset. And Pozzo ridiculously denies the feelings he has just expressed because they don't fit with his concept of his social role.

What do Pozzo's references to Greek gods show in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive)?

Instead of referencing Christian religious traditions as Vladimir and Estragon do, in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive) Pozzo exclaims "Atlas, son of Jupiter!"—two Greek gods (more or less)—when outraged, and uses the Greek demigod Pan to describe the stillness of nightfall. This seems to be another way Pozzo pompously tries to separate himself from the more "common" Estragon and Vladimir. The study of ancient Greece was seen as the height of learning, so Pozzo is trying to establish that he is a learned man. However, he gets his Greek mythology wrong—Jupiter is not the son of Atlas—emphasizing the absurdity of his social posturing. These Greek references seem to have no meaning for Vladimir and Estragon, suggesting the uselessness of religion to provide meaning in life. Although they are more familiar with the Christian tradition, it never gives them any answers, either.

In Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) how does Pozzo describe his view of life during his speech about the night?

After reminding everyone to pay attention to him in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Pozzo begins his speech about the night by describing the sky as they are seeing it at twilight, the time after the sun sets but before the sky is totally dark. He describes how the sun shines strongly during the day and then more and more palely in the evening until it finally goes down. It seems like a gentle time, but behind the peaceful twilight, night is "charging" and will "burst upon us ... like that!" He concludes, depressingly, "That's how it is on this bitch of an earth." This speech of Pozzo's, which comes shortly before Lucky's long speech, previews the speech's theme and mood. Both speeches address a kind of decline, represented in Pozzo's speech by the fading of sunlight and onset of night. The sunlight fades gradually, making it feel inevitable that night will take over, a night Pozzo depicts as vital, forceful, and even malicious. Day and night (or light and dark) are common symbols for life and death, so Pozzo seems to be making a deeper statement that life is weak and powerless and is easily overtaken by death.

In Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) how are the names given to Lucky's dance significant?

When Pozzo asks Vladimir and Estragon to guess the name of Lucky's brief, flailing dance in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Estragon calls it "The Scapegoat's Agony," and Vladimir guesses "The Hard Stool," which might seem at first to refer to the stool that Pozzo sits on and Lucky carries but makes more sense as a reference to a difficult bowel movement. Both names indicate that Lucky's dance makes him appear to be in pain. Estragon's name also calls to mind that Pozzo blames Lucky for driving him mad when his abuse can't have helped but contribute to Lucky's decline. Pozzo has made Lucky his scapegoat, among other things. Lucky's own name for the dance, "The Net," goes even deeper, echoing the characters' entrapment—Vladimir and Estragon's in their endless waiting, and Lucky and Pozzo's in their endless journeying. There is no indication in Lucky's dance that he gets out of the net—he struggles only briefly within it, suggesting there is no purpose to struggling, or to life.

How do Lucky's hats relate to independent thought in Waiting for Godot?

In Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Pozzo says Lucky must have his hat on to think; the speech Lucky gives when he thinks does seem to express some thoughts of his own, although they are jumbled. Even then, he needs to be ordered to think. Just wearing the hat, however, is not enough. Although he is wearing his hat when he and Pozzo arrive, he shows no sign of independent thought, only responding to Pozzo's orders. The other characters remove Lucky's hat to stop his thinking, and it's left behind when Pozzo and Lucky continue on their way. When Lucky returns in Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return), he is no longer able to speak, so he could not express any independent thoughts even if he were so inclined. That he wears a different hat seems to symbolize this change in his ability to think.

In Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) how does Lucky's speech make fun of academic speech?

Parts of Lucky's speech in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) echo structures of academic language, such as the statements "Given the existence ... of a personal God" and "considering ... that as a result of the labors left unfinished." However, the conclusions to these statements never appear, implying the lack of meaningful conclusions in academic speech. Lucky often repeats syllables such as "quaquaquaqua." Qua is a preposition originating from Latin and used in both French and English to mean "which way" or "as," again signaling a logical direction or conclusion that is never fulfilled. He also repeats syllables in words such as "Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry." While academy and anthropometry are real words associated with learning (anthropometry is the study of the measurements of the human body), the repeated syllables call to mind slang terms for feces. The names of "scholars" in Lucky's speech use similarities to words in English, French, and even German to reference nonacademic concepts. For instance, the driver and ticket puncher on a tram are "Puncher and Wattman." Many, such as "Fartov and Belcher," take words for bodily functions and make them sound like words in foreign languages. These references clearly signal that academic speech foolishly fails in its attempts to identify and prove any sort of meaning in existence.

What does Lucky's speech suggest about the meaning of existence in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks)?

The premise at the beginning of Lucky's speech in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), "Given the existence ... of a personal God," seems to indicate he is arguing for religion, which traditionally provides meaning in people's lives. But he then attributes to God the characteristics of apathia (apathy or indifference), athambia (inability to be bothered), and aphasia (inability to communicate), showing that if there is a God, he apparently doesn't much care to help or even communicate effectively with people. Lucky's speech also indicates humanity has turned away from God and toward learning, technology, and various forms of recreation to find meaning. This effort has also failed, however, and humanity "wastes and pines." The end of Lucky's speech portrays humanity as abandoned and fading in a cold, dark, wasteland, containing nothing but stones and skulls. It is understandable that the horrors of World War II, including the Holocaust, would have led to this view of the decline of humanity and the world. If God doesn't intervene to prevent such horrors, it certainly calls his existence into question, and it is difficult to find any other meaning in it, either. Beckett seems to see this loss of meaning as causing the decline of humanity. What remains is a hard, barren wasteland. The final word, "unfinished," seems to refer both to Lucky's unfinished speech and the continuing decline of mankind.

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