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Waiting for Godot | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks) why does Lucky's speech upset the other characters?

In Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Lucky's speech paints a fairly unhappy picture of the future of humanity, which could provoke a listener to want to make him stop. Pozzo has also indicated that Lucky, who "used to think very prettily," now drives him mad, likely because of the extremely broken way he expresses his thoughts. Lucky's speech is jumbled and scatological (contains bathroom humor); it brings up lofty theological notions only to drop them for fart jokes; and though the other characters succeed in breaking it off at the word "unfinished," Lucky otherwise shows no signs of stopping. It is significant that Beckett leaves the stage directions vague for the rising frustrations of the other characters during Lucky's speech. Their increased frustration is not tied to any particular word or phrase. Instead, the speech seems to simply irritate the other characters the more it continues, until they finally reach the point of attacking Lucky physically to make him stop. If the rising frustration correlates to anything in the speech, it is probably Lucky's torrent of incoherence.

What is unusual about Estragon's and Vladimir's names in Waiting for Godot?

The identities of the two main characters are never quite certain throughout the play. When Pozzo asks Estragon what his name is in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Estragon mysteriously tells him "Adam." His choice of the name of the Biblical first man reinforces the impression that he is an Everyman, representing all of humanity. It also raises the question of whether their names even are Estragon and Vladimir. They never volunteer their names to other characters and only address each other by the childish nicknames "Gogo" and "Didi." Vladimir says his own name just once, and the longer form of Gogo's name, Estragon, appears only in the script. This uncertainty is heightened when the boy with a message from Godot refers to Vladimir as "Mister Albert" in both Act 1 (A Boy with a Message) and Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message), and Vladimir fails to correct him. Are they Vladimir and Estragon, or are they Albert and Adam? Are they using code names, like members of the French Resistance? In the end, it doesn't really matter. Whatever their names, they are the ones keeping themselves waiting for a meaning that will likely never come.

How does Pozzo's watch contribute to the uncertainty of time in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (Lucky Thinks)?

Before Lucky's dance and speech in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), Pozzo listens to his watch to disprove Vladimir's claim that time has stopped. After Lucky performs, however, Pozzo is suddenly unable to find his watch. Absurdly, instead of checking his pockets, he, Vladimir, and Estragon listen to his chest to try to find it. They hear something but conclude it is Pozzo's heart, making a connection between the heartbeat, death, and time: when the heart stops, a person dies. Estragon suggests the watch has stopped, suggesting perhaps time itself has actually stopped, or time is an illusion. Pozzo ultimately concludes he left his watch at home, apparently forgetting that he had it only a little while before. The unreliability of Pozzo's memory throws into doubt any number of other details: perhaps he and Lucky have met Vladimir and Estragon before, even many times before—perhaps they are actually reliving the same day over and over.

How does the boy contribute to Vladimir and Estragon's uncertainty in Waiting for Godot?

Despite his multiple appearances (or the multiple boys who appear), always conveying a message to or from Godot, in both acts the boy does not firm up Vladimir and Estragon's certainty. In fact, the boy contributes to their uncertainty by providing a real but totally confounding link to Godot: if he is indeed carrying a message from Godot, where did he come from? Where is Godot right now? Why cannot the men travel back to Godot with the boy? Far from raising their hopes by being a real-life, and almost real-time, connection with the long-awaited guest, the boy serves only to heighten the unreality of their whole waiting enterprise—so much so that, by the time the boy finally returns, the men know exactly what message he brings.

Have Vladimir and Estragon met Lucky and Pozzo before Act 1 of Waiting for Godot?

After Pozzo and Lucky leave, Vladimir says in Act 1 (A Boy with a Message) that they have actually met before and he just pretended not to recognize them. This seems surprising at first because Vladimir went along with Estragon's apparent confusion about Pozzo's name in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive). When the scene is reviewed with the new information, however, it seems possible that Vladimir was deliberately playing along and perhaps even trying to provoke Pozzo by linking him to a woman with a sexually transmitted disease. In Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return), it becomes evident that Vladimir and Estragon are living the nearly same day over and over again, including the arrival of Lucky and Pozzo. This strongly suggests that the same day probably also played out at least once before the beginning of Act 1, meaning they had all met before. It could still be debated that Vladimir actually remembers previous meetings with Lucky and Pozzo, because memory, even Vladimir's, is extremely uncertain in Waiting for Godot. It brings up a deeper philosophical question: Can a person actually be the same every day, because circumstances, reactions, and emotions are constantly in flux? Beckett seems to be making the contradictory point that everything changes and stays the same simultaneously.

What does the rising of the moon signify in Waiting for Godot?

In Waiting for Godot, the moon rising signals the beginning of full night and the time when Vladimir and Estragon stop waiting for Godot for that day. As in Pozzo's speech about the twilight, night could be seen to represent death. Indeed, night falls quite suddenly based on the stage directions, echoing Pozzo's picture of night bursting upon a weakly fading day. Godot's messenger arrives shortly before the moon rises, making it clear that Godot will not come after dark. If night is death and Godot represents some sort of meaning to existence, these events suggest humanity will find no meaning before or after death. In Act 1 (A Boy with a Message), Vladimir exclaims "At last!" when the moon rises, seeming relieved by the symbolic arrival of death as an end to their waiting. They also consider literal death—hanging themselves from the tree again after nightfall. Estragon adapts part of a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, saying the moon is pale and tired from climbing the heavens and looking down on "the likes of us." Even the moon is exhausted by Estragon and Vladimir's existence. In Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message), the moon rises even more quickly, and Vladimir and Estragon play out virtually the same scene as in Act 1, contemplating hanging themselves or parting ways, and in the end, doing nothing.

Why does Estragon abandon his boots in Waiting for Godot, Act 1?

In Act 1 (A Boy with a Message), Estragon leaves his boots at the edge of the stage, saying someone will come along with smaller feet and the boots will make this person happy. Although also absurd, this is one of the most hopeful actions in the play. The boots are a constant source of suffering to Estragon, so by abandoning them he is actually taking a small step toward improving his existence. Unfortunately, he is unable to take the larger step to end the suffering of their endless waiting, although he repeatedly wants to (and even once tries to) leave. Estragon hopes his boots might be found by someone with the right-sized feet who will find them a source of comfort rather than suffering. Of course, chances are slim that someone with just the right-sized feet will find the boots, making his hope somewhat absurd. But improbably, the boots in Act 2 (Vladimir and Estragon Return) do seem to be different from the ones Estragon left at the end of Act 1, at least allowing the possibility that someone took his old ones because they found them useful. The boots represent the possibility that good things do happen but humanity is too figuratively asleep to notice.

What is the significance of Estragon's comparing himself to Christ in Waiting for Godot, Act 1 (A Boy with a Message)?

When in Act 1 (A Boy with a Message) Vladimir tells Estragon he can't leave his boots and go barefoot, Estragon says, "Christ did." Vladimir protests he can't compare himself to Christ, and Estragon replies he has all his life. Vladimir argues against this by focusing on the practical differences, pointing out that Christ lived in a place where feet didn't need so much protection from cold and wet. Estragon replies, "And they crucified quick." By focusing on the suffering of Christ's death, he seems to be drawing a parallel to his own suffering, caused by his ill-fitting boots and the mysterious nightly beatings. The comparison, however, is absurd because it applies only at a surface level. Whereas it is a central article of Christian faith that Christ suffered to save all humankind, it is difficult to see any purpose or meaning in Estragon's suffering. And that may be Beckett's point: if there is no God or higher meaning, then Christ's suffering doesn't mean any more than Estragon's does. In fact, Estragon replying "And they crucified quick," implies that he feels he suffers more than Christ did because Christ died quickly, while Estragon is still suffering.

What are some elements of metafiction, in which the characters are aware that they are in a work of fiction, in Waiting for Godot?

In Waiting for Godot, Estragon and Vladimir occasionally say and do things to indicate that they are aware they are in a play. This makes the play, to some extent, a work of metafiction, in which the elements of a literary work are used to point out that the work itself is an artificial construct. The most obvious of these instances occurs in Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive) when Estragon directs Vladimir to the "End of the corridor, on the left" to go to the bathroom. These directions are more consistent with a building, such as a theater, than the outdoor setting of the play. Vladimir strengthens the impression they are in a theater by replying, "Keep my seat." Of course, there are no seats on stage. In Act 2 (Conversation Kills Time) when Estragon becomes convinced that people are coming after him from all directions, Vladimir points him beyond the front of the stage, toward the audience. Although Vladimir says there is no one in sight, Estragon recoils as if he is afraid. Given that he has been afraid of strange people coming, there is a definite impression that he is horrified to see people—the audience—in that direction as well. Vladimir then acknowledges whatever Estragon is reacting to, saying, "Well I can understand that." When the two begin insulting each other a few moments later to pass the time, Estragon comes up with "Crritic!" as the ultimate insult. Of course, an actor would consider a critic the worst of the worst, much more than two ragged men on the side of country road would. These comments, revealing the fictional nature of the characters' existence, only emphasize the absurdity of their "reality," and by extension, all of humanity's as well.

Why do negative reactions tend to follow acts of affection in Waiting for Godot?

In Waiting for Godot, characters only occasionally display affection or compassion (they are most often concerned with their own feelings), and in Act 1, those displays are followed immediately by negative reactions. Vladimir wants to embrace Estragon when he first arrives in Act 1 (Estragon and Vladimir), but Estragon irritably brushes him off. Later, Estragon prompts Vladimir to embrace him but then recoils because he smells of garlic. In Act 1 (Lucky and Pozzo Arrive), Estragon tries to comfort Lucky by wiping away his tears, and the usually passive Lucky viciously kicks Estragon for his efforts. Generally, affection and compassion serve to connect people to one another; these negative reactions serve to immediately cut off those connections, again keeping the characters isolated from one another emotionally, and generally reinforcing the impression of an uncaring, meaningless existence. This disconnection between the characters lessens somewhat in Act 2. Estragon forcefully rejects Vladimir's first request to embrace in Act 2 (Vladimir and Estragon Return) because he is angry that Vladimir seems happy without him. When they do finally embrace a bit later, however, neither one is disgusted or reacts violently. Vladimir comically pulls away first, making Estragon almost fall, but overall, it is a moment of connection. Their embrace in Act 2 (Conversation Kills Time) is even more positive. After insulting each other, the two embrace to make up. Finally, there is nothing awkward or negative about the embrace, although as part of their efforts to fill time it may be less than completely genuine. This increasingly evident emotional connection between Vladimir and Estragon is a small, positive, counteraction of the torture of their endless waiting. They may be waiting forever, but at least they have each other.

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