Waiting for Godot Recitation Outline

Nicholas Fletcher and Joseph Hicks
English 150
Wednesday 13 November 2013, 5 p.m. section

Selected passage

Page 76-77 [or 58-59, depending on edition]; discussion of radishes, Vladimir hands Estragon a black one. Ends with Estragon: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?

General topic of discussion: existentialism, search for identity and meaning and how this mindset departs from previous discussions on Irish nationalism and the fight for a specific Irish identity (Yeats, Heaney, partial Joyce).

General themes and ideas

Possible questions

  1. What is the significance of food in this excerpt? Why is Estragon so emotionally invested in it?
    1. Vladimir: You overdo it with your carrots.
    2. Food perhaps representing pointless things that humanity fills itself with to give meaning.
    3. further reminder of their existence, the ineluctable modality of hunger.
    4. I'll go and get a carrot. He does not move.
      • Perhaps highlighting again the futility of the pursuit of "food" — specific desires. all that is necessary is to eat, specifics do not matter.
  2. Who or what is Godot? Why are they seemingly indefinitely waiting?
    1. Godot could represent death, their waiting/filling the time could represent humanity filling its existence with made-up meaning while they wait for death
    2. Illustrating the idea that Vladimir and Estragon represent humanity as a whole, two parts of one "person," as evidenced by their switching of roles
  3. How do you interpret Vladimir's line There's nothing we can do? How does it relate to the first line of the play (Nothing to be done)?
    1. Again, highlighting futility
    2. Nothing is a thing that can be done; this is what our protagonists (humanity) will be doing for the whole play.
      • What is undertaken in life doesn't matter in the grand scheme.
    3. Relates to next question.
  4. What is the significance of Estragon and Vladimir's rapid back-and-forth conversation? Repetition of lines? How does this conversation style define their significance as characters?
    1. Estragon and Vladimir perhaps represent the same person, or idea of a person; they are representative of humanity, although sometimes two sides of it that are sometimes at odds.
    2. The repetition of lines emphasises the infinitely repetitive nature of human life?
    3. They switch roles (Vladimir is often the philosophical one — This is becoming really insignificant — but at end of excerpt it is Estragon that says We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression that we exist?
      • Further showing that they do not have defined roles, because they both represent humanity, perhaps a humanity that sometimes struggles with itself to accept the meaninglessness of the human condition.
      • Ties in to next question.
  5. What is the significance of Estragon's line, We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression that we exist? How does this relate to Vladimir's actions during this statement (preoccupation with Estragon's boots)?
    1. Showing a conflict between being caught up in futile things to pass the time and the difficult-to-accept notion that the things that we identify ourselves by are meaningless, and our identities are nonexistent.
      • occupation / relaxation / recreation / relaxation
      • Ulysses — Catholicism, Irishness are meaningless ciphers for identity.
  6. How do the ideas presented in this passage relate to the idea of an Irish identity and the themes previously discussed in the course?
    1. Beckett's work represents a movement away from the attitude of those previous: at its heart it is post-WWII existentialism that rejects nationalistic identities and purposes laid out by the likes of Yeats.
    2. The characters are not defined by an identity any more than their names and the hats that they wear; perhaps representative of the uniform struggle of humanity at its core and the futility of trying to draw borders and trivially define oneself.