Waiting for Godot Analysis
by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot book cover
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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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Country road

Country road. Unnamed road, alongside which Vladimir and Estragon await the arrival of Godot. No clues are given to identify the location, whose terrain is a flat and unbroken plain to the distant horizon. In a ditch nearby, Estragon has spent the night, despite beatings by an unknown “they.” In effect, the road stretches to and from nowhere in particular, although Pozzo says he is leading his servant, Lucky, down the road to a fair. Pozzo’s claim that he owns the land is not necessarily true. Although Vladimir refers to past experiences together atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris and grape-picking “in the Macon country,” Estragon claims that he has never been in Macon country and has “puked [his] puke of a life away here . . . in the Cackon country.” None of these claims is verifiable.

Despite Beckett’s insistence that productions of his plays should always adhere to his specifications, the austere set he intended for this play has occasionally been radically altered by stage designers. For example, the set of the 1988 Broadway production of Waiting for Godot designed by Tony Walton was a stretch of Nevada highway, cluttered with debris and abandoned car parts.

Tree

Tree. Sole landmark by the road that helps direct Vladimir and Estragon to where they are to meet Godot. The scraggly tree is bare in the play’s first act. Although no other trees can be seen, Vladimir and Estragon are uncertain that this is the correct tree by which they should be waiting. Indeed, they think it might not be a tree at all, but rather a shrub or a bush. Vladimir suggests that it might be a willow but admits that he does not know. He also suggests that the tree may be dead. However, when the second act opens there are four or five leaves on the tree, proving that the tree is alive and that an indeterminable length of time has passed.

Beckett reportedly told a biographer that Waiting for Godot was inspired by Kaspar David Friedrich’s painting Two Men Observing the Moon, in which such a tree figures prominently.

Low mound

Low mound. Slight slope of land on which Estragon sits at the beginning of the play, struggling to remove his boot. This is the only other feature of the landscape mentioned in the stage directions.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The French Resistance Movement during World War II
Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot in the late months of 1948, three years after Allied forces had liberated France from German occupation, and some scholars suggest that his war experience might have served as an inspiration for the play. After German military forces had successfully invaded and occupied Northern France in the spring of 1940, a nominally free French government had been established in the South at Vichy and an underground French Resistance movement arose that attempted to frustrate and undermine German control of France. Beckett joined the Resistance movement in Paris in September of 1941 and helped pass secret information to England about German military movements. When an infiltrator began uncovering the names of Resistance members in Beckett's group, Beckett and his companion (later his wife) Suzanne had to flee Paris and travel into the South, where they eventually found refuge in the small village of Roussillon, near Avignon. In the French version of the play, this village is named as the place where Vladimir and Estragon picked grapes, an activity that Beckett and Suzanne actually engaged in. This has led some scholars to suggest that Vladimir and Estragon can, at least in part, represent Beckett and Suzanne in flight from Paris to Roussillon or the two of them waiting in an extremely dangerous form of exile for the war to end. In Roussillon, Beckett earned food and shelter by doing strenuous manual labor for local farmers, eventually working for a small local Resistance group, and trying to keep his identity hidden from the Germans occupying outlying areas. After the war, Beckett was awarded two French medals, the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la...

(The entire section is 3,572 words.)