Act II, Section B-4: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 784

Summary
Pozzo crawls away but remains down. Vladimir, is afraid Pozzo is dying. Estragon responds by amusing himself. He calls Pozzo, “Abel,” and Lucky, “Cain.” Then he ponders a cloud.

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Vladimir and Estragon decide to pass the time by helping Pozzo. Once up, Pozzo tells them he is blind. They carry him around for a while, then release him. Pozzo has lost his sense of time, and wants to locate Lucky. “Where is my menial?” he asks.

Vladimir suggests this is Estragon’s chance to get back at Lucky for kicking him. Lucky is down, and Estragon can revive him by following Pozzo’s suggestions of pulling the rope or giving him “a taste of his boot, in the face and the privates....”

Estragon starts kicking him. In the process, he hurts himself, retires to the mound, and falls asleep.

Pozzo commands Lucky to get up. When he is up, he lifts the bags, puts the end of his rope in Pozzo’s hand, and they are ready to go.

Vladimir wants to hear Lucky sing or think or recite. “But he is dumb,” Pozzo responds. “Since when?” Vladimir asks. Furious at his obsession with time, Pozzo blurts out, “One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second.... They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” Pozzo pulls on the rope and he and Lucky leave.

Analysis
In B-4, the physical action centers on the four characters getting up after having fallen down. Pozzo and Lucky prepare for their exit. As in A-5, the action of B-4 focuses on Lucky, the classic victim. Kicked by Estragon, he resumes his tentatively upright position, loaded down with baggage. Lucky is now more impaired than before. After a reference to his ability to dance and speak, and a request by Vladimir for him to sing, Pozzo announces that he is dumb.

Originally, when Beckett created his Regiebuch, he wanted the movement of the actor playing Vladimir to imitate the circular rotation of the earth. When Pozzo, now blind, asks, “What’s it like?” in an attempt to get his bearings, Vladimir was to begin to turn in a clockwise direction. After every line, he was to turn a quarter of the way around and stop. This was in keeping with Beckett’s decision to have all lines in the play that referred to temporal concepts, those dealing with time in an earthly existence, accompanied by either clockwise or counter-clockwise motions of hands and feet. Clockwise motion represented lines about living in a temporal world and counter-clockwise motions indicated escape from that world.

This was in keeping with the instructions in the opening of the play. Here, the actor playing Estragon was instructed to make large, circular gestures with his hands while saying, “Nothing to be done.” Although these gestures were outlined by Beckett, they were not always performed as written. However, Beckett clearly wanted to convey the theme of circularity within his play. His ability to see his work in visual patterns led critics to label his directorial efforts as “choreography.”

Although Beckett was a purist when it came to the language of his play, he somehow managed to balance his words with theatrical gestures. He instructed his actors to “Never let your changes of position and voice come together. First comes (a) the altered bodily stance; after it, following a slight pause, comes (b) the corresponding utterance.” This was later referred to by critics as the step-by-step approach. Along with the other self-conscious devices incorporated into the dialogue, such as the elimination of the fourth wall, this gave Waiting for Godot its absurdly theatrical quality.

Pozzo’s reference to the stage as the “Board,” is followed by the “Black poetry” in his speech about giving birth “astride a grave.” This is one of the only references to females in this play. And any positive sense of life renewing itself is dismissed swiftly. “They gave birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s “night once more.” This is a play about men. “We are men,” Vladimir states emphatically at the end of B-3, although it is immediately followed by Estragon’s comment, “Sweet mother earth!”

Whatever Beckett’s reasons were for excluding women from his play, he was adamant about it. During his life, he tried to close down productions with female casts. Since his death, any productions that do not follow his outline of the play are preceded by disclaimers.

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