A Contrast Between Two Pairs of Characters
In Ecclesiastes we read:
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
Waiting for Godot is structured upon the contrast of the two races of men. In contrast to Gogo and Didi, the fraternal pair, we have the Pozzo-Lucky couple. Gogo and Didi choose to stay together, but Pozzo and Lucky are visibly tied to one another.
Lucky, the Biblical Ass
In the beginning, Lucky the slave is driven by Pozzo by means of a rope tied round his neck. More dog-like than human, he responds to the cracking of a whip he himself carries between his teeth till his master has need of it. He has also to carry upon his shoulders the weight of Pozzo’s belongings. Bent under the weight of his burden, Lucky resembles a mule, or, perhaps that most humble and useful of creatures, the Biblical ass. He is also a caricature of Atlas, a name by which Pozzo calls him at a moment of fear and anger. (As to his name, it is as ironical as the name “Felicite” which Flaubert gives to his patient, selfless servant in A Simple Heart).
Lucky’s Glorious Past
At some time in the distant past, we are told by Pozzo, his slave radiated “beauty, grace, truth of the first water”. Pozzo admits that, being overwhelmed with professional worries, he had no time for finer things such as dancing, singing, and thinking. Besides, such pursuits do not befit a master. (Even the great rulers of ancient
left many decisions of state to their slaves, raised to the posts of ministers or councillors). Now Lucky’s intellectual baggage contains only sand, but once “he used to dance the farandole, the fling, the brawl, the fandango, and even the hornpipe. He capered. For joy.” Looking at Lucky’s dance, Gogo wonders whether this strange jerky movement could be called “The Scapegoat’s Agony.” Didi, at the sight of these strange movements, calls them “The Hard Stool”. But the master corrects both of them, describing the movements as “The Net”, adding: “He thinks he’s entangled in a net”. Entertaining though it might be to watch the wretched Lucky struggle in an invisible net, Vladimir, the intellectual one of the pair, expresses a preference for hearing Lucky think. Pozzo is willing to offer this entertainment but warns his new acquaintances that his slave cannot do any thinking without putting on his hat. Hatted, Lucky begins his thinking and his thoughts prove a strange mixture. Rome
The form of Lucky’s monologue is an unfinished question which begins with a postulate of the existence of a personal God and ends with the image of an empty, fossilized skull. Thomism, Cartesianism, Hegelianism are all strangely mixed in Lucky’s head. (His clownish raving represents that crisis of intelligibility which was already the concern of the Sophists and rhetoricians of the fifth century). What Lucky seems to be saying is that man has been unable to make a place for himself in this universe. Divorced from the intelligible world of essences, from God’s world, man “wastes and pines” and eventually “fades away”. As to God, of the little God (Godot), asleep or absent, he is the victim of “apathia......athambia.......aphasia”. It is a God who leaves man to his sports: “dying.......flying.......penicillin”. Scientific progress will unmake man.
From Essentialism to Existentialism
Lucky experiences much physical agitation as he delivers his “anti-soliloquy”. Clearly, that perfect mechanism—the human body made by the hand of God—has suffered the same deterioration as the questioning mind. Lucky’s consciousness moves from essentialism to existentialism. By watching this movement of his consciousness we participate in the ritual dismemberment of the cultivated mind. It croaks out its quaquaquas1 (What? What? What?) which must remain unanswered. The personal God with the white beard evoked in the opening lines of Lucky’s monologue will not appear to settle the debate of the conscience with the void. Nor will Puncher2 and Wattman3 (Whatman?), Testew4 and Cunard5 (Test, stew, cut, and testicules), Fartov6 and Belcher7, whose names suggest the difficult digestion which follows the ingestion of philosophical matter, Steinweg and Peterman (stone and sick), nor any member of the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry” provide the answer. These philosophers and scholars will be unable to halt the regressive motion by which the human creature will revert to its primitive condition. Man will “uncreate” himself to the point of becoming “the empty skull in
The Decline in Lucky’s Thinking Powers
Lucky’s denunciation of the human race and his own condition of near-idiocy show that man’s endeavours constitute a mass which is superfluous as is the creature that generated them. Thought is reduced by Beckett to a circus-act or a variety entertainment which can be stopped only by having Didi seize Lucky’s hat. When Lucky begins to rave, it can be assumed that the condition is due to the presence of the bowler hat on his head. It is as though the mechanism of repressed thought had suddenly slipped out of control. The torrent of words coming from Lucky’s foaming lips reminds one of the endless buckets of water carried by a magician’s apprentice. In this the magician Pozzo is equally horrified by his creation. This once gifted creature (Lucky) has been transformed though centuries of slavery into a mindless parrot. When his hat is taken away, it is as if the man of thought had lost his crown. Having demonstrated the uselessness of his achievements, Lucky can no longer be hatted. Taking the hat away from
, Pozzo filings it on the ground, tramples on it, and shouts triumphantly: “There’s an end to his thinking!’’ Tyranny is at last firmly established, but he restoration of peace and order signifies the restoration of the idiot. When next we see the master and his slave, now dumb, Lucky still carries his burden, but Pozzo has lost his sight and his strength. It is a case of the dumb leading the blind. The rope which links the two is shorter, symbolising the increasing dependence of the master on the servant. Clearly Pozzo has not carried out his original intention of selling his slave. The two wretched creatures are now joined together, and the result is a monstrous indivisible, mass of humanity. Vladimir
Frightened and utterly dependent on his slave, Pozzo is nevertheless the man who cannot stay in one place. Once the whip-cracking master of men and worldly possessions, Pozzo is yet unable to give up the myth of action even when his powers fail him. Through blindness he has entered the shadowy world of indeterminate space and time, a universe which is “like nothing”. His sightlessness, as he himself states, is that of Fortune, an absurd blindness. Unlike Tiresias, he does not possess a third eye which would allow him to look into the future. A grotesque Oedipus at the crosssroads, led by an idiotic slave, Pozzo, is as cut off from any future as from his past. He does not recall, having met Estragon and
before, perhaps because they were of no importance to him except as a temporary and accidental audience; nor will he remember them the next day. Vladimir
A Caricature of God
In the portrayal of Pozzo, Beckett has given us a caricature of God, the absolute monarch. Pozzo is the living symbol of the Establishment. Nothing must discourage him. When
asks him: “What do you do when you fall far from help?” he answers unhesitatingly, using the royal “we”, or perhaps including his slave, “We wait till we can get up. Then we go on. On!” Were Pozzo to stop for one moment he would be faced with the clear and unbearable image of his gradual disintegration. We know this for it is Pozzo who formulates a striking definition of the human condition when he says: “They give birth astride of a grave” (Page 89). Vladimir
Pozzo, the Egotist
Despite such knowledge, Pozzo belongs to that class of men who do not learn by suffering. He is an egotist, full of self-love. He is fond of hearing his own voice and the ready flow of his rhetoric. He is convinced that he owns not only the land around the road, but the road as well and all the people on it. His stool which Lucky sets up for him whenever he wishes to rest is a portable throne. Having eaten the chicken, he throws, with the grand gesture of an emperor, the bones in the direction of his slave who, too weak to eat, lets Estragon chew them. Pozzo’s greatest concern is his dignity. Once he has risen from his stool, he will not stay unless begged to do so. If he condescends to speak to Estragon and
, it is only because “from the meanest creature one departs wiser, richer, more conscious of one’s blessings.” But when, these two dare question him, he sees in it a sign of future rebellion: “A moment ago you were calling me sir, in fear and trembling. Now you’re asking me questions. No good will come of this!” Pozzo’s absolute mastery, his divinely delegated powers, must remain unchallenged. Vladimir
Pozzo’s Arrogance Towards Lucky
As to his slave, Pozzo would like to get rid of him, but “the truth is you can’t drive such creatures away. The best thing would be to kill them”. One recognises here the tone of a superlord. Pretentious, but only half-educated, Pozzo curses Lucky, calling him “Atlas, son of Jupiter.’“ Though he does not know that Atlas was not Jupiter’s son, he must recall that the brother of Prometheus was a foe of the gods, and that they punished him for having taken part in the rebellion of the Titans. Not that Lucky at all looks like a Titan—this is another example of Beckett’s irony—but Pozzo fears a possible revolt by the slaves. In Act II, reduced to a pitiable condition, Pozzo still calls his servant “pig” and encourages Estragon “to give him a taste of his boot, in the face and the privates as far as possible” (Page 87). Although he himself cries for pity, Pozzo feels no pity for anyone else.
Pozzo’s Philosophic Utterance
Paradoxically this grotesque man of action, a doer who has outlived the moment of his greatest power, formulates the tragedy of man’s brief existence on this earth: “One day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second.” (Page 89).
The Difference Between the Two Pairs
It has often been said that Pozzo and Lucky are one man, that they represent the duality of mind and body. Estragon and
have likewise been supposed to represent one man. If these suppositions are correct, the difference between the two pairs may be noted. The oneness of Pozzo and Lucky is degrading to both and is indeed shown as profoundly harmful; the connection of the other two is a warm, life-sustaining relationship. Estragon and Vladimir are aware that one cannot be warm alone. The situation of Pozzo and Lucky is different. Neither of them is able to help the other in Act II when they fall down. In fact, when Vladimir attempts to help Pozzo to his feet, he falls next to the blind man, and, in turn, when Estragon comes to his friend’s rescue, he is dragged down on the heap on the floor. Thus, Estragon and Vladimir try to lift up their fellow-man, but if they are unable to do so it is because Pozzo is beyond human reach. Pozzo manages to extricate himself from the pile and to crawl away. Estragon and Vladimir lie on the ground, as though forgotten. After a while, however, they manage to rise. “Simple, question of will-power”, states Vladimir , unaware that he could not exercise his will-power while Pozzo was close. Contact with Pozzo has a weakening effect on others. Nothing illustrates so clearly as this scene the Demoralising and weakening effect of tyrannical rule (Pages 81-86). Once Estragon and Vladimir have succeeded in shaking off the paralysing influence of the tyrant, they try to help him. By having him place his arms round their necks, they manage to help him up, but in this position he is only a deadweight that they are forced to drag. Vladimir
Devaluation is not the only feature of Beckett’s bitter irony here. Pozzo might be a blind divinity (like the
of Endgame), a cruel god, powerless, unknowing, unjust. If so, why wait for the Second Coming of Godot? And in fact what justice can be expected from Godot? The information supplied by the messenger-boy indicates that Godot’s rewards and arrangements are perfectly arbitrary. Godot is good to the goat-herd but beats the shepherd. Is Godot then an anti-Jehovah as Pozzo seems to be an anti-Christ? The goat is traditionally a symbol of lust, and we learn from St. Matthew that, if the sheep are to be on God’s right hand, the goats will be placed on the left. Godot’s sense of justice seems then to be absurd or inverted. Yet Beckett seems to suggest that Jehovah’s decisions are equally inscrutable, such as allowing Cain to kill the kind-hearted Abel. Perhaps Godot is only a human being, a lost, suffering creature because, when in pain, Pozzo responds to the names of both Abel and Cain. “He’s all humanity”, comments Gogo. Hamm
Lucky’s Bondage to Pozzo, an Alternative to the Tramps’ Unbearable Waiting
Pozzo and Lucky are representatives of the ordinary world from which the tramps are excluded. “We’ve lost our rights?” Estragon asks, and
says, “We got rid of them” Even the tramps wish to assert their importance as free agents by insisting that their exclusion is voluntary. By contrast with Pozzo and Lucky, however, it is the life of the tramps which appears normal. Pozzo and Lucky create a metaphor of society, not as it is but as the tramps might see it, with the social structure reduced to an essential distinction between master and slave. In a world like that of this play where man awaits a revelation, Pozzo the master is the nearest approach to what is absent. He appears all-powerful, dominating the stage by his gestures and his inflated language. Life, for Pozzo, is important. When he enters he still values the body (and has brought ample provisions with him for his journey); he is capable of enjoying sensual delights and depends upon a collection of cherished possessions (his watch, his vaporizer, etc.). He reminds us of a feudal lord, self-consciously magnanimous in his disposal of time and charity. He condescends to recognise Vladimir and Estragon, who are on his land, as fellow-men though he regrets that the road is open to all. Pozzo’s is a fixed and well-regulated world in contrast to the confusion of the tramps where everything is in flux, and Pozzo’s behaviour echoes the image which the tramps have of Godot. Not surprisingly they at first mistake his identity: Vladimir
Estragon. Is that him?
Estragon (trying to remember the name). Er.......
Pozzo. I present myself: Pozzo.
Pozzo, in fact, is a temporal substitute for Godot. He is the man who has taken it upon himself to behave as if the answers are known, who lives wholly in terms of power, and whose existence is restricted by time. Lucky, it seems, is fortunate in having found this substitute. His bondage is an alternative to the unbearable waiting of the tramps.
Pozzo’s Inward Emptiness
However, Pozzo’s power is hollow. He does not accord much recognition to his servant whom he calls “pig” or “hog”. “The road seems long when one journeys alone”, he says, attaching no importance to Lucky, and again, “I can’t talk in a vacuum.” His speech reveals his inward emptiness. In Act I he speaks in platitudes: “From the meanest creature one departs wiser, richer, more conscious of one’s blessings.” Or, he elevates the simplest remark into an exaggerated performance. Thus, when
asks him a question, Pozzo prepares his answer like a teacher or a priest. He twice sprays his throat with the vaporizer, then groups the audience about him in anticipation, and finally spells out the answer with pedantic logic. If Lucky has found a substitute Godot, Pozzo avoids the tramps’ waiting by filling his life with illusion. Pozzo, on his journey, clings to his condition; the tramps, who remain where they are, are always seeking to change theirs. Vladimir
Lucky, a Source of Culture for Pozzo
It is Lucky who has transformed the world of his master and given Pozzo what intelligence and culture he now possesses. “But for him all my thoughts, all my feelings would have been of common things. Beauty, grace, truth of the first water, I knew they were all beyond me”, he says, referring to Lucky. The rope which binds Lucky and Pozzo also ties the master to his slave, and in Act II Pozzo no longer drives but follows him.
Lucky, Now a Puppet
Lucky is a puppet who obeys Pozzo’s commands. He dances, sings, recites, and thinks for Pozzo, and his personal life has been reduced to basic animal reflexes: he cries, and he kicks. But once, we have Pozzo’s word for it, he was a better dancer and capable of giving his master moments of great illumination and joy: “He used to be so kind.......so helpful and entertaining.......my good angel.......” However, this has changed: “now.......he’s killing me.” Pozzo has Lucky not only to act as a carrier but also to emphasise his own reality. Lucky’s thinking is now not the rationalist consolation it once was but total scepticism which illuminates the agony beneath appearances. When he speaks he is Pozzo’s tormentor; he reminds Pozzo of the reality which it is Pozzo’s earnest endeavour to avoid.
Lucky’s Terrifying Speech
This becomes clear in Lucky’s great speech which terrifies the hearers because it foretells the extinction of the world. Lucky presumes the existence of a personal God with a white beard, a God who “loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown and suffers like divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown to time but time will tell are plunged in torment.” (The phrase “for reasons unknown” occurs again and again in the course of Lucky’s speech). Despite God’s presence and the labours of all the authorities, it is discovered “that man in spite, of progress.......man in short.......man in brief.......wastes and pines and for reasons unknown continues to shrink and dwindle.” The authorities quoted by Lucky find that, in spite of the researches of science, the intuition of the artist, the physical culture of sport, and the endurance of the earth, everything is condemned to waste into the great dark of nothing. This is the only certainty which Lucky’s intelligence has discovered. Lucky’s knowledge of this ends in despair, and his thinking in this speech, with its devaluation of art, progress, religion, and science, anticipates the extinguished world of Beckett’s play Endgame.
Beckett’s Treatment of Man in Time
The change which overtakes Pozzo and Lucky by Act II is not, however, simply a comment on the decline of the master-slave society. Rather it belongs to the larger context of Beckett’s treatment of man in time. When he first appears, Pozzo is still firmly immersed in normal time. He even carries a watch and checks the length of his journey by it: time is valuable to him and he would not like to waste it by waiting under a tree for the night to fall: “But I must really be getting along if I am to observe my schedule.” When
says: “Time has stopped”, Pozzo says: “Don’t you believe it, sir, don’t you believe it,” For the tramps nothing noticeable is taking place, but for Pozzo “night is charging and will burst upon us.” However, he has not been long in the tramps’ presence before a change takes place. At first he observes that “All subsides. A great calm descends” and then he starts losing his possessions, first his pipe, then his vaporizer, and finally his watch. When this happens he experiences difficulties in remembering what he has just said, and his hold on things begins, to weaken. During the interval between Act I and Act II, the process is completed. In this interval since yesterday Pozzo goes blind and Lucky becomes dumb; and their miserable journey across the stage introduces a new meaning into an established image: ‘“Tis the time’s plague when mad men lead the blind.” Even Estragon is surprised at the rapidity of the change. It is Estragon, not Pozzo, who now seeks to establish some reason into time. Pozzo’s reply contains all of Beckett’s pent-up anguish over man in time: in our conception is our end, and yet we have to live it out to this dreadful conclusion which human beings are powerless to alter. Pozzo’s reply runs as follows: Vladimir
Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time? It’s abominable. When? When? One day, is that not enough for you, one day like any other day, one day he went dumb, one day he went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you ? (Page 89)
Pozzo and Lucky represent the two complementary sides of society. (On both of the entrances of Pozzo, Estragon believes for a moment that Godot has arrived, but the mistake is soon realised). They are totally interdependent. Without Lucky, Pozzo cannot move forward, sit down to eat or get up. Lucky cannot move either, except in response to Pozzo’s shouted orders and whip-cracks. Together they compose a functioning from which the two tramps are excluded, or have opted out.
and Estragon lack any such organisational framework and cannot function as isolated individuals either. Their “exercises”, whether physical or verbal, are strictly non-functional, being unrelated to any necessity or purpose. These exercises surely serve to pass the time, but time “would have passed in any case.” Vladimir
The Intention to Sell Lucky
Society, however, is in no better shape than those who are outside it. Its functioning is largely mechanical and the only defined purpose of Pozzo and Lucky’s laborious journey is to reach the market where Lucky will be sold. The objective result of this would be to break their society up, but Pozzo does not see so far and lightly boasts that he is not short of slaves. He only sees that Lucky has grown sour and tiresome so that he has, no more pleasure in the slave’s company.
A Caricature of Feudalism
This could well be interpresed as a caricature of feudalism in decline. In English productions of the play Pozzo thunders awfully in the manner of Colonel Blimp and at the same time is a slave to formality. In his punctiliousness of the sharp use of sarcasm he possesses the two most resented qualities of the old governing class. He can unbend towards the two tramps with a condescension which smells of superiority and which gradually gives way to his overwhelming need of an audience to talk to: “Yes, gentlemen, I cannot go for long without the society of my likes even when the likeness is an imperfect one.” He suggests the capitalism of the third or fourth generation. But although Pozzo wears an outward image of the country gentleman, it would be absurd to read Brechtian implications into this play. It is not an attack on senile capitalism, but a more general image of society as a whole. It does not correspond precisely to any division into haves and have-nots. Pozzo owns and commands, Lucky produces and obeys. He is equally the beast of burden and the artist and intellectual.
Physical as Well as Mental Decline
In the past Lucky has taught Pozzo all he knows of “beauty, grace, truth of the first water.” He can still manage a tottering dance to entertain them. He can still be made to think—so long as he is wearing his hat. And like the professional intellectual in any organized society, his thinking leads by its own momentum to conclusions so discomforting that the others jump on him and try to shut his mouth. This is the effect of Lucky’s breathlessly spoken and confused monologue which ends in a seeming incoherence that is nevertheless quite clear. Even while still thinking, Lucky was drawing near to the eternal immobility of bed-rock. Deprived of his hat, his thinking stops finnally “unfinished”. When he and his master reappear in Act II, Pozzo has gone blind; and Lucky dumb. They fall flat on their faces and are unable to get up without help. Thus their physical run-down is fast catching up with their mental run-down. Society, so far as these two represent it, is nearing the point where it ceases to function altogether.
Pozzo a Representative of a Stagnant Upper Class Despite His Memorable Utterances
But Pozzo, though now stripped of arrogance, is still very articulate. It is he who first utters the memorable phrase, “They (humanity) give birth astride of a grave”, to express the brevity of life. Lines such as these show that no precise parallel can be drawn between the Pozzo-Lucky combination and a two-tiered social order. Some of Pozzo’s speeches go beyond what seems dramatically plausible in a decaying boss-figure. But, whatever language he uses (and we may suppose that it was Lucky who originally taught him to utter “these beautiful things”), his thoughts are always platitudes, so that on a wider view he can still be equated with a stagnant upper class.
Representatives of “Body” and “Mind”
Pozzo and Lucky are complementary individuals, as are Estragon and
; but the relationship between the first two men is on a more primitive level: Pozzo is the sadistic master, Lucky the submissive slave. In Act I Pozzo is rich, powerful, certain of himself; he represents worldly man in all his facile and short-sighted optimism and illusory feeling of power and permanence. Lucky not only carries his heavy luggage, and even the whip with which Pozzo beats him; he also dances and thinks for him, or did so in his prime. In fact, Lucky taught Pozzo all the higher values of life: “beauty, grace, truth of the first water.” Pozzo and Lucky represent the relationship between body and mind, the material and spiritual sides of man, with the intellect subordinate to the appetites of the body. Now that Lucky’s powers are failing, Pozzo complains that they cause him untold suffering. He wants to get rid of Lucky and sell him at the fair. But in Act II, when they appear again, they are still tied together. Pozzo has gone blind, Lucky has become dumb. (While Pozzo drives Lucky on a journey without an apparent goal, Vladimir has prevailed upon Estragon to wait for Godot). Vladimir