Act II, Section B-1: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 697

It is the next day, the same time, the same place. Estragon’s boots are where he left them, “heels together, toes splayed.” The tree has a few leaves.

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Vladimir enters and sings a song. Estragon arrives, barefoot and unhappy. They greet each other and embrace. Vladimir’s singing made Estragon feel unwanted. “He’s all alone, he thinks I’m gone forever, and he sings.”

Vladimir tries to explain his mood, but can’t. Estragon’s been beaten again, this time by “ten of them.” Vladimir is reminded of Estragon’s dependence on him. They agree to say to each other, “We are happy.”

Vladimir remembers “yesterday,” the tree, Pozzo and Lucky, the scenery. Estragon has forgotten the tree. He remembers getting kicked and eating bones. Vladimir talks of the Macon country, of picking grapes with Estragon, some time before. Estragon becomes angry. He doesn’t remember that part of his life. He only knows where he is now—in the Cackon country.

They talk of the dead and death. They remember Godot. Again they wait. While they wait, they contradict each other and question each other. They manage to pass the time.

B-1, like A-1, defines the situation. Vladimir and Estragon question the time and place of their appointment, and go through their verbal patter to pass the time.

The “round-song” that Vladimir sings while he “comes and goes” from the stage is from a German children’s song. The words give the sense of an eternal refrain (“and dug the dog a tomb”) which might go on forever. The repetition of the dialogue, starting from the greeting (“Come here until I embrace you”, a Dublin colloquialism) also suggests a sort of ritual that might go on forever.

The song indicates the recurrent shape in Godot. “I take no sides. I am interested in the shape of ideas,” Beckett once remarked. Like the song, the shape of this play is circular. The words and actions come back to the same starting place, only to begin again.

The only indication that time has passed comes from the tree. It has sprouted some leaves. otherwise, the two characters appear unchanged. The stage directions do not indicate costume changes for Estragon and Vladimir. However, in Beckett’s Regiebuch, they have exchanged jackets and pants. They may be the same as before but have come to be more of a part of each other.

This section demonstrates further the relationship between Estragon and Vladimir. “Don’t touch me! Don’t question me! Don’t speak to me! Stay with me!” Estragon demands. These mixed messages have been compared to the dynamic that exists between couples who have been together for a long period of time. As a matter of fact, Beckett’s friends insisted that he had taken the dialogue straight from the repartée he had with his wife. Their relationship resembled that of two Irish “butties” exchanging vaudeville one-liners (cross-talk) in the old music-hall tradition. It is perhaps that image that best fits this play.

Vladimir and Estragon have different perceptions of time. Vladimir has a firm sense of “today” over yesterday, after a night spent alone but happy. Estragon claims not to know whether time actually passed. His mind has not retained the images of the tree and the attempted suicide or the appearance of Pozzo and Lucky.

Although the wait seems eternal, the act of waiting becomes more playful as well as more desperate. Vladimir and Estragon engage in a kind of dialogue that has been compared to the single lines of verse in Greek plays, called stichomythic play:

Vladimir: You’re right, we’re inexhaustible.
Estragon: It’s so we won’t think.
Vladimir: We have that excuse.
Estragon: It’s so we won’t hear.
Vladimir: We have our reasons.
Estragon: All the dead voices.
Vladimir: They make a noise like wings.
Estragon: Like leaves.
Vladimir: Like sand.
Estragon: Like leaves.

The words here are simple, idiomatic and rhythmic. The sparse poetic language fits together and produces a kind of haunting chant. All of it leads to the refrain:

Estragon: What do we do now?
Vladimir: Wait for Godot.
Estragon: Ah!

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