Waiting for Godot: Themes

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At the end of Act I the disconsolate Vladimir and Estragon agree that they must leave, yet when the curtain falls they are sitting as motionless as statues. Despite their best intentions to change and break out of their pattern of endlessly waiting for Godot, who never arrives, they are incapable of action of any sort. Indeed, both characters never act on their words or intentions.  For instance, when Estragon tells Vladimir he will fetch him a carrot he doesn’t move. At the end of Act II, they remain motionless having uttered the last words of the play, "let's go" (64).  At this point it becomes apparent that, cry out as they will against the injustices and the boredom of life, nothing ever will happen.


Inertia or frozen immobility is a thematic factor in Beckett’s vision of the hopeless human condition. Although Estragon and Vladimir seem to be impervious to the past, there remain indications that they both, but especially Vladimir, do remember occasional happenings. Despite these inklings of repetitive events, however, they simply do nothing to change and despite their insistent resolve remain frozen.  When Vladimir attempts to convince Estragon to help Pozzo get up, he passionately cries out: "let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance!"  It’s as if he is crying out for them to take some sort of action while they have a window of opportunity; before they forget.  In this, Beckett claims that Estragon and Vladimir, who represent humankind, are incapable of determining their own fates and they are stuck. As Vladimir states: "all mankind is us, whether we like it or not."




Throughout Waiting for Godot, Beckett addresses the issue of dependency.  Indeed, all his main characters are dependent. Despite Pozzo’s cruelty, Lucky has become so dependent upon Pozzo that he is willing to subjugate himself as a slave, indeed a beast of burden, out of fear at the idea of parting from his master. Although he has an aversion to people, the distasteful Pozzo puts aside his anger, concerning Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot on his land, just so he can interact with fellow human beings. Like all humans, Pozzo feels lonely and seeks out the company of others even if they are not up to his standards: “I cannot go for long without the society of my likes… even when the likeness is an imperfect one.” So be tells Estragon and Vladimir that he will spend time with them even though they are not perfect.


Similarly, Estragon and Vladimir are entirely fed up with each other’s company. They bicker and threaten each constantly, yet cannot leave each other. They try to distract themselves from their endless wait by arguing over such topics as sleeping and dreaming and even contemplate suicide. Estragon, in particular, is dependent upon Vladimir. Indeed, at times he seems as vulnerable, and thus dependent, as a child.  He even relies on Vladimir to feed him and protect him from unnamed nighttime beings “the same lot as usual,” who seem like boogie men.  Vladimir, nevertheless, is just as much dependent upon Estragon. He views himself as Estragon’s protector and caretaker and is convinced that Estragon returns to him time and time again because he is incapable of protecting himself and so must depend upon Vladimir if he is to continue living. Estragon provides a reason for Vladimir’s existence.  And, while Vladimir may not depend upon Estragon for food and shelter, he desperately depends upon him for companionship and for the constant reinforcement that Godot exists.

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