Act I, Section A-5: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 806

Pozzo wants to repay Estragon and Vladimir for being “civil” to him. Although Estragon suggests money, Pozzo offers entertainment.

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He proposes that Lucky dance, sing, recite, or think for them. Estragon suggests that Lucky first dance, then think. On command, Lucky puts down his bags and dances the same step twice.

Although this attempt proves disappointing, Vladimir wants to hear Lucky think. Pozzo insists that Vladimir return Lucky’s hat to his head in order to get him to perform. Once this task is accomplished, Pozzo commands, “Think, pig!”

Lucky does so. He shouts out a litany of remarks. At long last, Vladimir grabs his hat. Lucky falls and is finally silent.

Pozzo, in his anger, takes the hat, tramples it, and announces, “There’s an end to his thinking!”

Worried that Lucky may now be dead, Vladimir and Estragon attempt to lift him and hold him up. They quickly grow impatient with this, and allow him to fall.

Upon Pozzo’s insistence, they finally get him standing again on his own, holding the bags. Pozzo hunts for his watch, doesn’t find it, realizes he must have left it at home, and attempts to go.

This is not an easy task. “I don’t seem to be able…(long hesitation)…to depart.” he says. “Such is life,” Estragon agrees.

However, before long, Pozzo and Lucky exit.

A-5 focuses on Lucky. He is built up by Pozzo as one who can perform any number of feats. Like any circus animal, he supposedly has the ability to dance, sing, recite, or even think on command.

However, his dance proves disappointing, and his “think” overwhelming. Naming the dance becomes a guessing game for Estragon and Vladimir. In reality, giving it a name was kind of a game for Beckett. He toyed with the idea of naming it “the death of the duck,” with duck meaning “joke” or “malicious lie,” or “the death of the lamplighter,” which referred to the lowliest employee in a French railway station, to whom death would be a relief. Estragon guesses the title to be “The Scapegoat’s Agony,” which also implies relief from suffering. Vladimir comes up with “The Hard Stool,” which refers to constipation. Calling it “The Net,” however, gives it the added dimension of interminable entanglement.

Lucky’s speech follows this pathetic display. In its presentation and philosophy, it demonstrates human suffering and decline. It is perhaps the kind of verbiage that goes through the mind of those on the verge of death. Perhaps it is even what the dying say. Through Lucky’s words and actions, disintegration takes on a human form.

Although some critics have dismissed it as gibberish, or as the “word-salad” of schizophrenics, the speech is actually a carefully constructed, three-part critique. The first section describes the idea of a diminishing personal god who is no longer feeling, moving, speaking (“divine apathia, divine athambia, divine aphasia”), ending with the line “but not so fast.” The second section, starting with “considering what is more,” is about man who is shrinking and dwindling (“wastes and pines wastes and pines”). The third section fixes on “the earth abode of stones,” starting from the line “considering what is more, much more grave.”

Lucky’s speech or “tirade” is filled with the kind of verbal repetitions defined by Ruby Cohn. “Simple doublets” can be seen in the repetition of “for reasons unknown but time will tell,” and “winter winter.” “Multiplets” that form “pounders” can be seen in “in spite of the tennis,” “I resume,” and “alas.”

Some of the language Lucky uses is there just for effect, to create a mood of confusion and horror. At the same time, some of it refers to Beckett’s own derisive humor, game playing, philosophy, and environment.

“Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy” mocks academia. “Fartov,” Beckett quipped, meant “to fart,” and “Belcher,” “to belch.” “Camogie” is an Irish game. Bishop Berkeley, the Bishop of Cloyne, was an eighteenth-century educator and philosopher who believed that existence was dependent on perception. “Connemara” is a western section of Galway known for its colorful landscape of mountains, lakes and the Atlantic shoreline. By the end, the speech deteriorates into repetitions and
isolated words—“tennis… the stones… so calm… Cunard… unfinished…”—and Lucky has to be forcibly silenced.

The monologue summarizes the position of the two tramps, Lucky, his master and all people, who are condemned to age and die on earth. Having relayed this message, Lucky collapses. He is kicked by Pozzo, and lifted by Vladimir and Estragon. He finally resumes his position as an obedient slave.
Though he “totters, reels sags,” with help he remains “on his feet, bag and basket in his hands.”

The language takes on the quality of Ruby Cohn’s “volleys” with repetitions of “adieu,” “yes,” “no,” and “on” as A-5 ends.

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