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

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lucky's diatribe is an assertion of the paradox of man's existence and his relationship with God. The speech is rich in metaphor and references to the works of scholars on the subject. Throughout his soliloquy, Lucky attempts to provide insight into the human condition – that man has been abandoned by God but that God still has empathy for him. Furthermore, the descriptors used by Lucky make it clear that he does not really know or understand entirely what he is talking about. It is as if what he says has come to him in a moment of enlightenment and inspiration – he therefore babbles away without really knowing what he is saying.

The speech is Beckett's critique of man's desire to convince and impress those less knowledgeable about our deep understanding and insight into the human condition and human affairs. Our so-called intellectuals couch their language in obscure references and embellish it with jargon and bombastic vocabulary to seem intellectually advanced and to indicate that they have a profound understanding of what they are talking about. However, this is all a sham. In the end, we end up more confused and uncertain.

Lucky refers to the fact that man is diminishing in stature in spite of all his achievements – man "wastes and pines," but finds meaning in grandiose exploits and achievements. All this is meaningless. Man seeks purpose, but what that purpose is is not known. Man exists in a world in which he is not truly nurtured for growth and advancement and therefore man seeks purpose but does not really know what that purpose is.

Lucky's speech is the essence of what the play is about. Our two protagonists are "waiting for Godot." Why, no one knows, but it provides their lives with purpose. It gives their existence meaning and, therefore, instead of committing suicide, they will wait for Godot. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character called Lucky in Waiting for Godot shows he is a servant of capitalism and will say anything or do anything for money. He is “lucky” because he is one of those educated and intelligent men who has a good job. The fact that he has a rope around his neck and is treated like a dog by his master Pozzo illustrates the author's opinion of the legions of men who have sold out for the sake of financial security. These men are lucky because they have all the necessities of life. Lucky's apparent condition as an abused and despised slave is not his real status. He may in fact be well-dressed, live in a comfortable home, drive a good car, etc., but Beckett is portraying him metaphorically. He is as good as dead. He could be a lawyer, a politician, a writer, a professor, a clergyman, a consulting psychologist, a salesman, an advertising copywriter, or something else--but he is really, as Beckett sees him, a wretched slave who has sold his soul to this greedy, ignorant, ruthless businessman. He is "lucky" because a lot of other men would like to be in his position. They fight each other to get jobs like his. His long speech is gibberish. It seems to contain a mixture of legalese, philosophy, literature, history, and many other things. The actor who plays the part of Lucky must have a devil's own time trying to memorize it. The speech consists of one run-on sentence without a single comma or other punctuation mark. It is obviously intended to be nothing but what it seems, which is utter gibberish. It is not designed to inform but to confuse. The name "Lucky" is intentionally ironic.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Demonstrating the disintegration of the human condition, Lucky's speech is a summary of the two main characters' life journies and, therefore, the life-journey of all humanity.  Once the reader gets past the seemingly random collection of words in Lucky's speech, it is important to note a few different things commented upon.  First, Lucky comments upon God in all of His "divine apathia" who Lucky feels is no longer present. This commentary about God leads nicely into Lucky's next subject which is the human condition.  Humanity, according to Lucky, "wastes and pines wastes and pines."  Finally, Lucky speaks of the earth which, he says, is "much more grave" leading the reader to believe that Lucky is speaking about eventual death.  Also, throughout the speech, Lucky also does his own fair share of mocking everything from higher learning to the most grotesque of bodily functions.  These interludes are, of course, dispersed throughout the speech.  In a nutshell, I believe that Lucky isn't spouting nonsense words.  No.  Lucky is revealing our path through life to death with a few laughs along the way.