Waiting for Godot
Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics
What do you think is the most effective way that Beckett presents repetition in Waiting for Godot? If the play is meant as a representative sample of what happens every night in the lives of Vladimir and Estragon, why does Beckett choose to present two acts instead of three, or one?
Describe the relationship between Vladimir and Estragon. Why do you think they stay together, despite their frequent suggestions of parting?
Suggested Essay Topics
The two most important sets of characters in the play occur in pairs. Does this emphasis on pairs create some significance for the boy, who appears alone? Vladimir and the boy discuss his brother; could this brother be the boy's pair? Perhaps the most important "character" in the play, Godot, is also a single character rather than a pair. Does this distinguish him from Vladimir and Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky? Does Beckett seem to prefer single characters or pairs?
How does the relationship between Vladimir and Estragon compare with the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky? What is the effect created by the contrast between these two pairs of characters? Is it significant that the characters appear in pairs, rather than alone?
Do you think the play warrants a religious reading? Can Godot be considered a Christ figure or simply a religious figure? If so, what is implied by his failure to appear? What about Estragon's attempts to equate himself with Christ? Consider also the many biblical allusions throughout the play, such as the mention of Cain and Abel and the discussion of the story of the two thieves.
Though it seems as if nothing happens in the play, actions actually play a very important role in Waiting for Godot. The stage directions of the play constitute nearly half of the text, suggesting that the actions, expressions, and emotions of the actors are as important as the dialogue. Examine the significance of the stage directions of one particular scene; for example, why is Estragon always struggling with his boot? What is the significance of Pozzo's vaporizer spray? What is the point of the scene in which Vladimir and Estragon exchange hats eight times?
Beckett called his play a "tragicomedy." Do you agree with this classification? If not, how would you classify the play? Do you think the play contains more elements of tragedy or comedy?
What is memory's role in the play? Why do so many of the characters' memories seem to be erased each day? Vladimir seems to be the only character who remembers things from one day to the next. What is the purpose of having one character remember what all of the others forget?
What is the overall tone of the play? Is the reader left with a feeling of resignation that Godot will never come, and Vladimir and Estragon will continue to wait in vain, or is there some hope created? Do the changes in Pozzo and Lucky between the first and second acts contribute to an overall feeling of hopelessness? What about the changes in the tree? The coming of spring often suggests hope for the future; is this the case here?
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