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Waiting for Godot | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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What is the significance of the Latin phrase Memoria praeteritorum bonorum, used by Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return)?

In Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return) when Pozzo says his sight used to be "wonderful," Vladimir quotes a Latin saying, Memoria praeteritorum bonorum, which means the past is always remembered well. In other words, people tend to remember the good things about the past more than the bad, or reshape their memories to make the bad events seem less negative. Vladimir then comments, "That must be unpleasant," contradicting the usual understanding that people enjoy remembering the good things about the past. Instead, Vladimir says remembering the past well is unpleasant for Pozzo, perhaps focusing on how unpleasant his blindness must seem in contrast to his past "wonderful sight." Vladimir also seems to mean that remembering the past well is generally unpleasant, which is supported by other instances of memory in the play. He has brought up with Estragon their past time in France, and it often seems to reflect badly on their present situation.

In Waiting for Godot, Act 2 what does Lucky's bag of sand say about life?

As Pozzo and Lucky prepare to depart in Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return), Vladimir finally thinks to ask what is in the bag Lucky carries. Pozzo casually answers, "Sand." It is jarring to discover that the apparently heavy bag Lucky has been carrying throughout the play is full of sand, used simply to weigh things down. Generally, no one transports a heavy bag without a reason, and the audience automatically assumes it contains something of value—clothes and supplies for the journey, or maybe even gold. The unexpectedly absurd revelation that it contains only weight both creates humor and serves as a powerful illustration of the purposelessness of life. Poor Lucky is shown to be not only carrying burdens not his own but also doing so pointlessly.

In Waiting for Godot, Act 2 how are Vladimir and Estragon similar to the two thieves crucified with Christ?

Near the end of Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message), Vladimir confirms that he and Estragon will hang themselves tomorrow—unless Godot comes, in which case they will be saved. This plan calls to mind the same duality in Vladimir's Bible story from Act 1 (Estragon and Vladimir) about the two thieves crucified along with Christ, one of whom was damned and the other saved. Vladimir and Estragon are caught in this same duality, although rather than suffering either of these fates, they exist in a kind of perpetual limbo between them every day. Godot never comes to save them, and they never manage to actually damn themselves to hanging, either.

Why doesn't the boy see Lucky and Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, Act 2?

When the boy arrives in Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message) shortly after Pozzo and Lucky have departed, he says he hasn't seen them. This is a marked difference from the boy in Act 1 (A Boy with a Message), who says he waited until Pozzo and Lucky left to deliver his message because he was afraid of them. It is unclear from the stage directions whether the boy arrives in Act 2 from the same direction in which Pozzo and Lucky have recently departed, but his claim not to have seen them seems a little odd, just like his other claims (such as never having seen Vladimir before). Vladimir has just been pondering whether he, Estragon, and their whole existence waiting for Godot are even real—perhaps he is asleep and dreaming. This would go a long way toward explaining the absurd lack of logic in time, memory, and everything else they do and say. However, like the rest of the play, whether it is all a dream remains uncertain; Vladimir immediately rejects the idea, and he and Estragon continue waiting for Godot.

What does the boy represent in Waiting for Godot?

The character of the boy, like everything else in Waiting for Godot, is open to different interpretations, but a few things are relatively clear. First, the boy is the only character who says he has direct knowledge of someone named Godot. Second, he is a messenger. (To those who see Godot as God, it is difficult not to think of the boy as an angel, one of God's divine messengers.) However, his message is the opposite of the answer Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for—it serves only to keep them endlessly waiting. Children often represent innocence, and Vladimir defends the boy against Estragon's anger in Act 1 (A Boy with a Message), perhaps suggesting that he is less to be blamed than an adult. The boy also displays a level of timidity, saying he is frightened of Lucky and Pozzo in Act 1 and running away from Vladimir's frustrated lunge in Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message). Overall, however, the boy doesn't seem particularly innocent. Thematically, the boy's message is what keeps Vladimir and Estragon's search for meaning—in the form of answers from Godot—alive. Without a nightly assurance that Godot will arrive tomorrow, they would likely stop waiting. Despite this, the hope of finding meaning is enough to keep Vladimir and Estragon trapped in endless waiting.

Why do characters wonder if they're asleep or dreaming in Waiting for Godot?

Reality is one of the many uncertain things in Waiting for Godot. Characters often suggest they might be sleeping and living in some sort of dream; perhaps predictably, it seems to be Estragon who is most in touch with this deeper possibility. The first time he wakes up from a nap in Act 1 (Estragon and Vladimir) and Vladimir refuses to hear his dream, Estragon asks, "This one is enough for you?" The stage directions specify that his words are accompanied by a gesture that indicates "the universe." Vladimir's concrete idea of time and reality contrasts with Estragon's more subjective view in Act 2 (Vladimir and Estragon Return). When Vladimir tries to remind Estragon of events that happened "yesterday," Estragon suggests that Vladimir dreamed them. Even Pozzo in Act 2 (Lucky and Pozzo Return) begins to doubt his reality after going blind. When he describes waking up without his sight, he wonders if he's "not still asleep." In Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message), Vladimir finally wonders if he is also sleeping, implying that his existence is a dream and wondering what truth there is in the events he remembers. But he cannot seem to face the implications of this possibility—if their reality is a dream, Estragon and Vladimir may not really exist either—and quickly reverts to his "rational" viewpoint, at least on the surface. His deeper doubts are revealed in his reply to Godot's messenger—to acknowledge that he's seen him, that he really exists.

What is the significance of the bowler hats in Waiting for Godot?

The bowler hats all four men wear are clearly associated with thinking. Lucky is unable to perform his thinking without his hat on his head in Act 1 (Lucky Thinks), and Vladimir frequently takes off his hat when he is trying to think of something, peering into it as if he will find what he's looking for hidden in the lining. (As the character most connected to bodily concerns and least concerned with intellectual thought, Estragon stares into his boot instead.) When Vladimir discovers in Act 2 (Conversation Kills Time) that Lucky's hat has been left behind, he discards his own and wears it instead (after a slapstick exchange of the three hats between him and Estragon). He claims that his was bothering him, perhaps suggesting that he is unhappy with his own thoughts and wants to think someone else's.

What is the significance of Estragon's dreams and nightmares in Waiting for Godot?

Throughout the play, Estragon tends to go to sleep to avoid unpleasantness, ranging from boredom to physical injury. Unfortunately, he doesn't usually find a refuge from suffering in sleep because he often reports nightmares or unpleasant dreams upon waking up. Estragon calls his dreams in Act 1 (Estragon and Vladimir) "private nightmares," and in Act 2 (Conversation Kills Time) he reports dreaming of falling from the top of something. It doesn't seem too surprising that Vladimir doesn't want to hear about these nightmares. When Estragon wakes up after sleeping through Pozzo and Lucky's departure in Act 2 (Different Boy, Same Message), he says he was dreaming that he was happy—and Vladimir still doesn't want to hear about it. Either Vladimir is too decorous or proper to want to hear Estragon's dreams, or Estragon's dreams get at a reality Vladimir wants to ignore, such as clues that they don't really exist or that Godot is not going to come—things Estragon is closer than Vladimir to understanding.

What is the significance of Lucky's name in Waiting for Godot?

Lucky's name is mostly situationally ironic because he is far and away the most abused and beaten down character in the play. His situation seems anything but lucky. He is the recipient of some of the worst impulses human nature has to offer—Pozzo treats him as less than human, and even Vladimir and Estragon can muster only fleeting sympathy for him. In a way, however, Lucky can also be said to be actually lucky. Because all decisions are made for him, he doesn't agonize over his own existence as the other three main characters do. The slavery that binds him, like the rope, also relieves him of the need to think, except when ordered. This frees him from the fruitless search for meaning that keeps Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot.

What might Godot represent in Waiting for Godot?

It is important not to attach too specific an identity to Godot because Beckett himself said he didn't know who Godot was. Many readers and audience members see similarities between the name "Godot" and "God," and that might have been intentional. Although Beckett originally wrote the play in French, he was a native English speaker and would have recognized the similarity. From his later statements though, it seems the similarity wasn't meant to be a concrete sign that Godot was God. It is possible, however, to conclude from the play's allusions to Christianity related to Godot that he represents something about religion, possibly spirituality in general—anything people seek outside themselves to try to provide meaning in their lives. The fact that Godot will probably never come expresses a strong doubt on Beckett's part about whether such a meaning exists, in which case people are actually seeking nothing. To wait for Godot is essentially a fool's chase.

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