What is the significance of the boots in the play Wating for Godot?

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Waiting for Godot is a play written by Samuel Beckett and performed for the first time in 1953. The two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for a man named Godot, who never turns up. As they are waiting, they encounter many problems. These problems range from struggling with their...

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Waiting for Godot is a play written by Samuel Beckett and performed for the first time in 1953. The two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for a man named Godot, who never turns up. As they are waiting, they encounter many problems. These problems range from struggling with their boots and hats to considering suicide. Although struggling with boots and hats may not seem to be a major problem, for a play which has no scenery, and very few props, the hats and boots are both significant and symbolic.

Vladimir is more concerned about hats throughout the play, his own and others. Hats are representative of Vladimir’s role in the play as a thinker. He is looking for answers in his hat. Estragon’s boots are symbolic of a number of things. They represent Estragon as a much more practical character than Vladimir—more of a realist. Like his boots, Estragon is grounded. It is Estragon who is not convinced that Godot will ever arrive. Estragon also owns only one pair of boots, and they do not fit him correctly and cause him pain. They are not only symbolic of his poverty—his struggle pulling his boots off and on is also symbolic of the struggles he deals with in life.

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The boots that Estragon wears serve several purposes in Samuel Beckett's play. They can be considered in literal and metaphorical ways.

Both Vladimir and Estragon seem to be homeless drifters. As such, Estragon owns only one pair of footwear. He generally sleeps outside and does not take off his boots. The single pair of shoes symbolize his poverty. Also, the boots are literally too small and cause him pain. Metaphorically, they stand for the social confines against which he struggles. That struggle is established as central at the outset, as Estragon is first shown wrestling with his boot to get it off his foot.

Further, Vladimir remarks several times on his friend's boots. He points out that Estragon's habit of leaving his boots on is incorrect; this can mean antisocial or harmful to himself: "Boots must be taken off every day." This blanket statement can also refer to humankind's daily struggle with society.

Vladimir also comments on the human tendency to avoid responsibility and blame external forces or perhaps fate for negative events. "There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet."

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The boots are an element of Estragon, while the hat is an element of Vladimir.  Just as the hat is representative of Vladimir's role as a thinker and philosopher, the boots show us that Estragon is the more "earthy" character... more emotional, a more concrete thinker, and less convinced that this unknown man Godot will actually show up.  As an earthy character, Estragon is more concerned with the moment than Vladimir is, and thus is easily distracted from his own suffering.  Just like with Pozzo and Lucky, these "joined" characters represent opposite characteristics. 

The boots, like the hat, are also symbolic of civilization and the human condition.  Civilization tells us that boots are a necessary part of life.  However, Estragon's boots are too tight and hurt his feet, in the same way that civilization restricts human behavior and can cause pain, such as alientation and loneliness.  Estragon's daily struggle with his boots shows how humans are trapped into other such daily struggles.  Each day is a challenge and is full of difficulty, even if that difficulty seems relatively minor. 

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