Nothing to be done.

This line, which Estragon delivers, opens Act One of the play and represents an idea to which Estragon and Vladimir return again and again. The fact that the characters have nothing to do as the play begins quickly establishes the hopeless nature of their mission to wait for Godot to arrive. They find themselves unable to take any action that would bring them closer to their goal of actually meeting Godot, rendering their entire existence rather pointless.

ESTRAGON: They talk about their lives. 

VLADIMIR: To have lived is not enough for them.  

ESTRAGON: They have to talk about it.  

VLADIMIR: To be dead is not enough for them.  

ESTRAGON: It is not sufficient.

This rather bleak exchange of dialogue, which occurs early in Act Two after Estragon offhandedly mentions the “billions of others” who have been killed, emphasizes a universal desire to lead a meaningful life. As Vladimir suggests, having lived is not a significant act in and of itself. Instead, humans manufacture their own sense of purpose by interpreting their lives in a particular way, an approach which seeks to hide the inherent meaninglessness of the human experience.

VLADIMIR: What does he do, Mr. Godot? (Silence.) Do you hear me?  

BOY: Yes Sir. 


BOY: He does nothing, Sir.

When a boy arrives at the end of Act Two to tell Vladimir and Estragon that Mr. Godot will surely come to see them the following day, Vladimir asks for additional details about who he is and what he does. This final admission that Godot himself does nothing solidifies the notion that their insistence on waiting for him to arrive is completely pointless. Vladimir and Estragon essentially spend the entire play pursuing an empty idea that will have no impact on the course of their lives, and this dynamic emphasizes Beckett’s argument about the meaninglessness of human experience.

Popular pages: Waiting for Godot