Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 964
Estragon gets up from the mound. He is in pain. He limps around and wants to leave. Vladimir reminds him that they must stay and wait for Godot. Estragon is not sure that they are waiting in the right spot or on the right day. Vladimir examines the spot, points out the tree as the landmark, but gets confused about the day.
Estragon naps on the mound. Vladimir paces, then wakes him. “I felt lonely,” Vladimir says. Estragon wants to share his dream, but Vladimir resists. They argue, then embrace.
The idea of suicide seems to appeal to both of them. They chat about the possibility of hanging themselves from the tree. “It’d give us an erection,” Vladimir says. “Let’s hang ourselves immediately!” Estragon concludes.
However, the method is problematic. The tree may not sustain Vladimir’s weight, and he may be left all alone. Also, the possibility exists that Godot may come and offer them something they want, something they may have asked for. And so they wait.
When Estragon gets hungry, Vladimir produces a carrot. This leads to talk about food, then more talk about Godot. Estragon wants to know if they are “tied” to Godot. “Tied?” Vladimir asks. “Ti-ed.” Estragon repeats. “But to whom? By whom?” Vladimir asks. “To your man,” answers Estragon, who by this time seems to have forgotten Godot’s name.
This discussion ends. Estragon repeats, “Nothing to be done,” and offers the remainder of his carrot to Vladimir. At this moment, they hear “a terrible cry, close at hand.” They huddle, cringe, and wait.
In A-2, the waiting takes on a more active form. Estragon and Vladimir move around. They inspect the environment. They eat, they walk, and they consider suicide by hanging themselves from the tree.
This section introduces the character who is known as Godot. He is a person at this point. He has instructed the men to wait for him by the tree. He has a family, agents, and a bank account. It is only later in the play that Godot becomes a concept. He remains unseen and unknown.
For years, scholars have been debating the significance of the name, Godot. As usual, Beckett was no help in offering explanations. “If I knew I would have said so in the play,” he has been quoted as saying.
The English-speaking audience immediately connected it to the word “God,” which was soon dismissed by the fact that the play was originally written in French. In every language, however, Beckett insisted that Godot be pronounced, “God-oh,” with the accent on the first syllable, which reopens that particular debate.
For some reason, even though it was out of character, Beckett entertained all kinds of theories from critics about the nature of Godot. As late as 1972, he was saying that he “wanted any number of stories to be circulated,” and “the more there are the better I like it.” So, at various times, by various critics, it was suggested that Godot might be Happiness, Eternal Life, Love, Death, Silence, Hope, De Gaulle, Pozzo, a Balzac character, a bicycle racer, Time Future, a Paris street for call-girls, and a diminutive God (‘ot’ meaning ‘little’ in French).
Section A-2 begins with Estragon getting up and limping around. It ends with him saying, “Nothing to be done.” This is the fourth repetition of this sentence in the play. There is nothing to be done about Estragon’s boot, about Vladimir’s hat or his physical infirmity, and about their individual character traits. By this time, it is evident that repetition of language is a pattern in the play.
Ruby Cohn, a Beckett scholar, invented her own terminology for the verbal repetitions in Waiting for Godot:
simple doublet—when a word or phrase is heard again immediately or very soon after it is first mentioned; In A-1, Vladimir says “appalled” then “AP-PALLED.
interrupted doublet—when another speaker interrupts the original speaker who is repeating a phrase In A-1, the following exchange happens:
Vladimir: Imbecile! From death.
Estragon: I thought you said hell.
Vladimir: From death, from death.
distanced doubled—when a repetition is delayed too long to be readily recognized
echo doublet—when phrases are repeated by different characters. In A-1, it is placed here:
Estragon: In a ditch.
Vladimir: A ditch!
triplet—when a word or phrase is repeated three times; In A-1, it happens here:
Vladimir: It hurts?
Estragon: Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts.
multiplets—when words are repeated many times
a pounder—when multiplets spoken by a single character
a volley—when multiplets are echoed by one or more speakers
the refrain—a meaningful word or words often repeated during the course of a play, so that the audience becomes aware of the repetition; In A-1 and A-2, there is the statement, “Nothing to be done.”
repeated negatives—words such as “nothing,” “not,” and phrases such as “I don’t know”; the French particle “ne” was used about 513 times in the play.
Using “multiples” ending in a “volley” of the word “tied,” Beckett manipulates the dialogue at the end of A-2 to anticipate the arrival of Pozzo and Lucky:
Estragon: We’re not tied?
Vladimir: I don’t hear a word you’re saying.
Estragon: I’m asking you if we’re tied.
Vladimir: How do you mean tied?
Vladimir: But to whom? By whom?
Estragon: To your man.
Vladimir: To Godot? Tied to Godot! What an idea!
This “idea” creates the tension these characters feel throughout the play. Hopelessly adrift, they live on the verge of a constant unknown whose vague and various sounds bring them either hope or terror. This section ends with them “Huddled together, cringing away from the menace.” And so, they wait.
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