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Identity in Waiting for Godot

Estragon represents the body and physical concerns, while Vladimir represents the mind and the mental. This is evidenced by Estragon’s constant concerns for food, sleep, and even his boots. Vladimir, on the other hand,  remembers the events of the past, and is the “thinker”. Estragon has a short memory, and lacks a mind. Both Estragon and Vladimir together make a complete body and mind, and for the same reason, cannot be separated.

 

Estragon cannot remember things very well. By doing so he loses his identity, which is somewhat recreated every time Vladimir reminds him of past events.

Estragon cannot even remember why they are waiting for Godot, until Vladimir reminds him:

VLADIMIR:

I'm curious to hear what he has to offer. Then we'll take it or leave it.

ESTRAGON:

What exactly did we ask him for?

VLADIMIR:

Were you not there?

ESTRAGON:

I can't have been listening.

VLADIMIR:

Oh . . . Nothing very definite.

ESTRAGON:

A kind of prayer.

VLADIMIR:

Precisely.

ESTRAGON:

A vague supplication.

 

Vladimir wakes Estragon up because he felt lonely: “I felt lonely” (page 10).

Estragon loses his identity with Vladimir:

ESTRAGON:

(coldly.) There are times when I wonder if it wouldn't be better for us to part.

VLADIMIR:

You wouldn't go far.

 

Do names even have any existential meaning?

POZZO:

(terrifying voice). I am Pozzo! (Silence.) Pozzo! (Silence.) Does that name mean nothing to you? (Silence.) I say does that name mean nothing to you?

Vladimir and Estragon look at each other questioningly.

ESTRAGON:

(pretending to search). Bozzo . . . Bozzo . . .

VLADIMIR:

(ditto). Pozzo . . . Pozzo . . .

POZZO:

PPPOZZZO!

ESTRAGON:

Ah! Pozzo . . . let me see . . . Pozzo . . .

VLADIMIR:

Is it Pozzo or Bozzo?

Names after all allow our identities to be unique, but does it really mean anything? Even without names our human bodies provide some form of identity, yet Estragon says:

ESTRAGON:

Personally, I wouldn't even know him if I saw him.

 

Humans were made in the likeness and image of God, but it is ambiguous if that likeness is in flesh and blood, or in mind, and capability of thought.

POZZO:

(halting). You are human beings none the less. (He puts on his glasses.) As far as one can see. (He takes off his glasses.) Of the same species as myself. (He bursts into an enormous laugh.) Of the same species as Pozzo! Made in God's image!

 

 

Yes, gentlemen, I cannot go for long without the society of my likes (he puts on his glasses and looks at the two likes) even when the likeness is an imperfect one.” (page 21)

Pozzo later admits he is not particularly human when he says:

POZZO:

He can no longer endure my presence. I am perhaps not particularly human, but who cares?

Pozzo and Lucky are interchangeable:

POZZO:

Remark that I might just as well have been in his shoes and he in mine. If chance had not willed otherwise. To each one his due.

Pozzo also says that Lucky is interchangeable with Vladimir, who takes over his role carrying the bags: “You have replaced him as it were” (page 30).

The interchangeability of characters is also shown when Pozzo says “The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops” (page 30).

 

Time again has no value or meaning:

POZZO:

You are severe. (To Vladimir.) What age are you, if it's not a rude question? (Silence.) Sixty? Seventy? (To Estragon.) What age would you say he was?

ESTRAGON:

Eleven.

 

 

 

Pozzo says “That was nearly sixty years ago . . . (he consults his watch) . . . yes, nearly sixty. (Drawing himself up proudly.) You wouldn't think it to look at me, would you? Compared to him I look like a young man, no?” (page 30). Time makes no difference but the hat makes all the difference.

Again time has no relevance or importance in an existential world:

POZZO:

No doubt you are right. (He sits down.) Done it again! (Pause.) Thank you, dear fellow. (He consults his watch.) But I must really be getting along, if I am to observe my schedule.

VLADIMIR:

Time has stopped.

 

When Pozzo asks Estragon what his name is, Estragon responds with “Adam” (page 34).

It turns out that Pozzo and Lucky are merely putting on an act, and do not even represent their true identities.

POZZO:

How did you find me? (Vladimir and Estragon look at him blankly.) Good? Fair? Middling? Poor? Positively bad?

VLADIMIR:

(first to understand). Oh very good, very very good.

POZZO:

(to Estragon). And you, Sir?

ESTRAGON:

Oh tray bong, tray tray tray bong.

POZZO:

(fervently). Bless you, gentlemen, bless you! (Pause.) I have such need of encouragement! (Pause.) I weakened a little towards the end, you didn't notice?

VLADIMIR:

Oh perhaps just a teeny weeny little bit.

ESTRAGON:

I thought it was intentional.

 

Pozzo also admits that even his memory is bad:

POZZO:

You see my memory is defective.

Silence.

 

Referring to Pozzo and Lucky, Vladimir notes how much the two have changed. They are simply playing roles that can be easily replaced.

VLADIMIR:

How they've changed!

ESTRAGON:

Who?

VLADIMIR:

Those two.

ESTRAGON:

That's the idea, let's make a little conversation.

VLADIMIR:

Haven't they?

ESTRAGON:

What?

VLADIMIR:

Changed.

ESTRAGON:

Very likely. They all change. Only we can't.

VLADIMIR:

Likely! It's certain. Didn't you see them?

ESTRAGON:

I suppose I did. But I don't know them.

VLADIMIR:

Yes you do know them.

ESTRAGON:

No I don't know them.

It was not the first time that Vladimir and Estragon ran into Pozzo and Lucky:

ESTRAGON:

Why didn't they recognize us then?

VLADIMIR:

That means nothing. I too pretended not to recognize them. And then nobody ever recognizes us.

 

The song that Vladimir sings at the beginning of Act 2 is cyclical and repeats forever. Even dogs have no meaning to their lives. They are simply trying to survive by getting enough to eat, but an external force, namely humans, disallow them from even that.

VLADIMIR:

Say you are, even if it's not true.

ESTRAGON:

What am I to say?

VLADIMIR:

Say, I am happy.

ESTRAGON:

I am happy.

VLADIMIR:

So am I.

ESTRAGON:

So am I.

VLADIMIR:

We are happy.

ESTRAGON:

We are happy.

 

ESTRAGON:

That's the way I am. Either I forget immediately or I never forget.

 

Is life just a game of interchanging roles?

VLADIMIR:

Will you not play?

ESTRAGON:

Play at what?

VLADIMIR:

We could play at Pozzo and Lucky. (page 79)

 

Vladimir and Estragon now represent all of mankind:

To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say? (Estragon says nothing.) It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and cons we are no less a credit to our species. The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflection, or else he slinks away into the depths of the thickets. But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come—“ (page 89).

 

“Or for night to fall. (Pause.) We have kept our appointment and that's an end to that. We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?

“ (page 90).

 

POZZO:

Who are you?

VLADIMIR:

We are men.

ESTRAGON:

It'd be amusing.

VLADIMIR:

What'd be amusing?

ESTRAGON:

To try him with other names, one after the other. It'd pass the time. And we'd be bound to hit on the right one sooner or later.

 

Pozzo becomes all humanity:
ESTRAGON:

He's all humanity. (Silence.) Look at the little cloud.

Then Pozzo says he is blind. Thus humanity is blind.

POZZO:

(violently). Don't question me! The blind have no notion of time. The things of time are hidden from them too.

 

Humanity also thus has no notion of time.

Even Pozzo claims to have poor memory:

POZZO:

I don't remember having met anyone yesterday. But tomorrow I won't remember having met anyone today. So don't count on me to enlighten you.

The boy isn’t even sure of Godot’s beard color.

VLADIMIR:

Fair or . . . (he hesitates) . . . or black?

BOY:

I think it's white, Sir.