Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
ACT SUMMARIES WITH NOTES - Waiting for Godot
Once again, Estragon is lulled to sleep and wakened by a nightmare. Upon waking, he relates that his nightmare was that he was falling. The Biblical overtones of the fall of man are heavy in this scene. Estragon fears for his soul, since he cannot prove to himself that he exists. The uncertainty overwhelms him, and he cries out that he wants to leave. Vladimir reminds him once again that they are waiting for Godot.
The potential heaviness of these issues is immediately undercut by the hat scene, wherein the two tramps begin playing with the hat lying on the ground (presumably left by Lucky) and their own two hats. In vaudevillian fashion, they begin trading hats, posing, trying on new hats, and with them, new demeanors. This posing leads to a new amusement, which is pretending to be someone else. They decide to play as if they are Lucky and Pozzo, but end this game when they think someone is coming. They settle on a game of abuse and name-calling reminiscent of the way Pozzo and Lucky spoke to each other, until Estragon can bear his state no longer, and he cries out to God for pity.
As suddenly as before, Pozzo and Lucky enter. Momentarily, they are mistaken for Godot. The scene that unfolds is rife with thematic imagery and symbolism. Pozzo's blindness presents itself to many meanings and interpretations. In the first place, he is humbled. In Act I he was proud and cruel. Here, he stumbles and falls, unable to help himself. He cries out for help and Estragon actually bargains with him to see what help might be worth. He becomes a pathetic figure, wallowing on the ground and begging in vain for assistance.
A second meaning can be found in the fact that one day he could see and the next he could not. Uncertainty again takes the thematic forefront. Man cannot know what will happen from one moment to the next.
A third and very powerful message comes from the fact that blindness can stand as a metaphor for all mankind in the face of God. Many times in the Bible, characters were struck by blindness after looking on the face of God or after searching for God. The truth of God supposedly overwhelms these men; they simply cannot handle what they see. Also, man's search for God takes place in total darkness; there is no lighted path to understanding. Pozzo claims that a blind person's present and future are both dark, and that time has no meaning. It makes little difference if it is day or night to a blind man. In this, Pozzo is somewhat like Estragon, who cannot conceive of time in a concrete way.
Along with his blindness, Pozzo has also developed a sense of immediacy; he is only able to live in the moment, with no regard to past or future. Vladimir asks when Lucky became mute and Pozzo shouts that it does not matter when. It is enough to say he is mute now. In the same way that Estragon and Vladimir are enveloped in the miseries of present life, so too is Pozzo trapped in the darkness of the moment.
After Pozzo and Lucky struggle to compose themselves enough to walk off, Gogo and Didi are once again alone. Estragon has fallen asleep, but wakes remembering happy dreams. This significant change is undercut by the fact that Vladimir does not want to hear about the dreams. Vladimir for his part is feeling very alone and estranged. He is suddenly aware of the need for purpose, which neither man has. He realizes that his tremendous boredom has kept him from realizing how empty his life is (though this is not altogether true) and the result is that he is utterly devastated by his own lack of purpose. Just as Estragon earlier cried out in despair, Vladimir now wails that he can't go. In true Beckett fashion, however, he realizes he must.
The arrival of the messenger boy signifies more God imagery and suggestion. As before, he has come with the same oblique and disappointing message that Godot will not come today, but he might come tomorrow. Another day of waiting befalls the two tramps. Also as before, he has a small amount of information to disperse about the mysterious Godot, this being that fact that he has a long white beard and he sits around doing nothing. Since the popular image of God has always been a very old man with a long white beard, the suggestion is obvious. The idea that God does nothing is another reason for man's despair; despite his suffering, God does nothing. Likewise, despite the fact that Estragon and Vladimir are waiting and suffering until Godot's saving arrival, he does not come. The plight of mankind is mirrored in their situation.
The final moments of the play take place when the messenger boy leaves and Vladimir and Estragon contemplate their continued wait. They discuss suicide again, and even attempt it. But the cord they choose is from Estragon's trousers, and it breaks under the load, leaving Estragon with his pants around his ankles in a bleakly comic moment. Though their wait is painful and they are surrounded by darkness (without guidance or help), they have faith that Godot's arrival will save them.
This blind faith is synonymous with Christian faith, wherein man waits for God despite his continued suffering and God's apparent absence. The idea that some sort of lesson is to be learned from what has happened in the play is completely undermined by the circular structure of the play. As before, the play ends with a decision to move and a failure to execute that decision. The two men stay and wait, leading the audience to believe that tomorrow will simply be Act III of Waiting for Godot.