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Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

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How does Vladimir and Estragon's relationship in Waiting for Godot compare to Pozzo and Lucky's?

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In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon have an equal relationship which does not change significantly over the course of the play. However, Pozzo and Lucky appear as master and slave in act 1 and then as blind man and guide in act 2. Their relationship, therefore, is unequal and subject to change.

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As there are only four characters of any importance in Waiting for Godot, and as they appear before the audience in two pairs, it seems natural to compare the two relationships. To do so, however, is quickly to discover that they present contrasts at practically every point. In the first place, Vladimir and Estragon enjoy an equal relationship and are fairly similar in character, while Pozzo and Lucky appear in act 1 as master and slave and in act 2 as blind man and guide. In both cases, they contrast sharply in appearance and manner. These differences are reflected in the dialogue. Vladimir and Estragon converse in swift stichomythia and repartee. Pozzo barks orders at Lucky, who responds with actions rather than words, except when performing his celebrated monologue.

Vladimir and Estragon, as the title of the play suggests, are static, perpetually waiting together. Pozzo and Lucky are dynamic. This is true both in the sense that Pozzo and Lucky pass across the stage on journeys while Vladimir and Estragon remain rooted to the spot and in the sense that Pozzo and Lucky change their roles and their relationship in act 2. The two tramps, by contrast, remain the same in both their individual situations and in their relationship to one another.

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In Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, we see the contrast between the two sets of duos. Vladimir and Estragon rely on each other, just as Pozzo and Lucky rely on each other. But the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky is far more parasitic. Pozzo treats Lucky as a slave, tying him up and verbally abusing him. While Vladimir and Estragon bicker and are occasionally mean to one another, the underlying impression is that they are very close and can be very caring. They are equals, whereas Pozzo and Lucky are not equals. In the first act, Lucky acts as a servant to Pozzo. In the second act, Pozzo is blind and Lucky is his guide. Because Lucky does not speak, except for the stream of consciousness monologue in the first act, we never learn what he gets from the relationship, whereas Vladimir and Estragon do seem to gain comfort from one another.

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Vladimir and Estragon's relationship is that of equals, while Pozzo and Lucky's relationship is that of a master to a slave and therefore defined by its inherent inequality. Vladimir and Estragon are united in their task, however slight, of waiting for Godot, and they share a friendly relationship, if one built on absurdity. Though the pair may occasionally get on each others nerves, they are essentially friends.

The Pozzo-Lucky relationship on the other hand could be said to be abusive. Pozzo treats Lucky terribly, as though he's not even human. Indeed, Vladimir and Estragon themselves greatly object to the mistreatment they see taking place when Pozzo and Lucky approach them.

Beyond the intra-relationship dynamics of each pair, another difference between them lies in the fact that while Vladimir and Estragon are perpetually waiting (at rest), Pozzo and Lucky are in a kind of perpetual motion.

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These two pairs have fundamentally different relationships, and they view the world differently because of this. 

In the absurdity that is Waiting for Godot, our main characters Vladimir and Estragon are friends, but they are kept from truly connecting with one another. Neither one really knows the other that well, and neither really dominates the other. In fact, their relationship on the whole reflects the whole message of the play—in a world of absurdity, no one really has any control or dominance because life has no meaning. Neither has a sense of purpose, they do not understand their world, and consequently they do not truly understand their relationship. 

On the other hand, Lucky and Pozzo's relationship is centered around Pozzo's dominance over Lucky. He has such power in that relationship that at first, when Vladimir and Estragon see him, they wonder if Lucky is Godot. This is definitely not a good relationship for Lucky (whose name is purposefully ironic), but these two understand their slave/master relationship, and therefore, they have a better understanding of their world. 


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The first element of comparison is that they are both couples (in a non-erotic sense). They are tightly bound together and depend on one another. Their relationships are complicated, seeming to blend love and hate. They have been paired up for many years; one has a sense of such a deep familiarity that they can anticipate each others' thoughts and reactions, and they find that familiarity both a source of comfort and claustrophobia. They both are sustained by the relationships and feel trapped within them. They also almost possess private languages which the audience can overhear but not fully comprehend. 

The main difference between the two relationships is that Vladimir and Estragon are equals, in similar situations, and the relationship of Pozzo and Lucky is unequal, with one being master and the other slave. Even when the positions of Pozzo and Lucky are reversed, they still remain inherently unequal. 

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Compare the relationship between Vladmir and Estragon to that between Pozzo and Lucky in Waiting for Godot? . What similarities and differences do you see?

Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot: some indication that life is meaningful or an escape. The name Vladimir can mean prince, man of the people or ruler of peace. Estragon has the connotative meaning of estrogen and he is the more stereotypically feminine of the duo. One is more masculine and contemplative and the other more feminine and emotion-driven. Or, you could look at them as manifestations of one character since they share characteristics and seem to inherently depend upon each other. Vladimir is the conscious, practical one and Estragon is the soul. These descriptions are oversimplifications because in this play there are no clear answers. Each character is capable of rationality, emotion and existential questioning.

Vladimir and Estragon depend upon each other. Likewise, Pozzo and Lucky are attached: literally by rope. Pozzo is a bully. He defines himself as Master to Lucky, his slave. Pozzo is a symbol of oppression and Lucky is the symbol of the oppressed and the repressed consciousness, which is why his lines are stream of consciousness. His rant adds to the chaos and meandering plot, but his speech actually describes a progression of questioning God, the attrition of life/history and death.

Pozzo and Lucky do more than just wait, but since their relationship is based on subjugation, their existence is historically harmful while Vladimir and Estragon’s is introspective but pointless. Pozzo does things for recognition. Vladimir and Estragon are suicidal. They do nothing but think out loud. Their outlook on life is almost entirely bleak, but they do still wait and try to pass the time with conversation and occasional profound questions. Estragon gets beat up, like Lucky, but Vladimir is not his oppressor.

At times, Vladimir and Estragon sound like an old married couple whose relationship has peaked and become habitual. They are waiting for something that never comes so they are waiting for death. Pozzo and Lucky’s relationship is like the relation between the powers of history and the modern, repressed individual. Pozzo overcompensates to function in the world as a Master. Lucky is the slave but can be commanded to “think,” and his thoughts parallel the confusion and the existential waiting that is characteristic of the modus operandi of Vladimir and Estragon.

For Vladimir and Estragon, Godot is God, boss or master. So their Godot is Lucky’s Pozzo. The idea here is that they might recognize that waiting for salvation from Godot is to wait for nothing or to wait for an oppressor.

Master-slave dialectic: The relationship between Vladimir and Estragon has been interpreted as an attempt to replace the Protagonist-Antagonist framework. Hegel’s metaphor of Master-slave describes history and individual development as a struggle for freedom during which one usually gains superiority over another. Hegel’s metaphor supposed that true freedom would exist beyond this Master-slave, or Subject-object, framework. Pozzo dominates Lucky, but Vladimir and Estragon’s interaction is not so clear cut and this represents an attempt to describe of two individuals seeing each other as subjects (not objects). Their existence appears meaningless but they are actually doing what they can to avoid dominating or objectifying each other and subsequently, they avoid being dominated by Godot. Ironically, they long for a master but avoid one by waiting.

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