That the sole character in Beckett’s Act Without Words I has been thrown into a desert is highly instructive. Alone in a desert without anyone or anything else around, communication of any kind—especially verbal communication—is difficult if not outright impossible.
The man’s chronic inability to communicate is undoubtedly a result of his lack of self-knowledge. As the man doesn’t seem to know exactly who he is—note how he stares in bemusement at his hands—there’s really nothing much to communicate about himself. If he doesn’t know anything about himself, what is there to say?
Besides, the man is too preoccupied with surviving in such an inhospitable environment to even think about communicating. As the man is not really in a position to communicate to us, the audience, we must somehow impose meaning on his numerous gestures and mimes in an attempt to establish some kind of connection with what’s happening on stage. Even so, such communication is also resolutely nonverbal, returning us back to where we came from: the difficulty of meaningful communication.
At whatever level, communication is a two-way process; but as one of the parties in this particular discourse is unable to communicate effectively, it is left to us to supply his deficiencies as a communicator. In Act Without Words I, as with many of Beckett’s plays, we are effectively handed a bag of fragments and forced to put them together ourselves.