From his first appearance in the play, Estragon, whom Vladimir affectionately refers to as “Gogo,” comes across as a rather simplistic and helpless figure. The audience initially watches him struggle to complete a very mundane task—taking off his boot—and soon learns that he sleeps in a ditch and experiences regular beatings from an unnamed group. This pitiable introduction sets a precedent for understanding Estragon as someone who is incapable of living a self-sufficient life and establishes his connection to Vladimir. Featuring characters as pairs is a characteristic of Theatre of the Absurd, and Beckett uses this trope almost exclusively for the characters in Waiting for Godot. While Estragon and Vladimir’s relationship resists a clear definition, Estragon tends to be the more down-to-earth of the two. He becomes preoccupied with his boot, obsesses over food and Pozzo’s chicken bones, and often gets confused when Vladimir offers a more philosophical point of view. These moments emphasize his simple nature and, in addition to the frequent mentions of the physical suffering that he endures, invite sympathy from the audience.

One of Estragon’s most notable characteristics, however, is his poor memory, a quality which results in one of the play’s signature motifs. He constantly forgets that he and Vladimir are waiting for Godot to arrive, and the dialogue that occurs between them each time that he needs reminding creates the sense that they are stuck in an endless cycle. Given that knowledge of the past and present is key for making decisions about the future, Estragon’s forgetfulness essentially traps him in his current, hopeless state. His inability to remember information in other moments also adds to the overall humor and absurdity of the play. In Act Two, Estragon has no recollection of what day it is or the events that occurred the day before, and this response highlights the way in which the play is strangely disconnected from time and place.

Despite all of Estragon’s piteous qualities, he does have surprising moments of insight which reflect his ability to match Vladimir’s quick wit. These thoughtful lines often come out of nowhere, and while they add to the play’s absurdity, they also suggest that Estragon is a more complex character than he initially appears. He essentially summarizes the entire play in his opening line—“Nothing to be done.” He explains the logic behind the need for Vladimir to try to hang himself from the tree first, and he offers astute observations such as “We are all born mad.” All of these moments reflect a level of perceptiveness which Estragon himself seems totally unaware of. Especially for the audience who does not have the privilege of reading from the script, Estragon’s occasional moments of brilliance add to his intrigue as a character. 

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