Waiting for Godot
How we cite our quotes:
Why doesn't he answer when I call?
I don't know. He seems to be sleeping. Perhaps he's dead.
Make sure he's alive before you start. No point in exerting yourself if he's dead. (2.715-35)
Vladimir is unable to take death seriously, leading us to believe that his earlier humanistic concern for Lucky’s welfare was just his impression of what he thought a person would do.
(suddenly furious) 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 he went dumb, 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, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more. (He jerks the rope.) On! (2.773)
Pozzo’s view of death seems disturbingly extreme, but he’s actually not telling us anything we don’t know. Death, he says, is inevitable. When a person is born, he begins his fall toward the grave. The only difference between his statement and what is perhaps a more common view of death is the amount of time that passes between birth and death. In our case, a lifetime, in this image, the moment it takes to drop into the ground. However, Waiting for Godot has already shown us that time is arbitrary (think about the conversation in Act I when Vladimir and Estragon try to determine what day it is). If this is true, the difference between an instant and a lifetime is simply a matter of perspective.
Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said? (2.795)
This is Vladimir’s response to Pozzo’s statement that life is fleeting and therefore without any meaning – notice how Beckett ties the two arguments together with a repetition of the oh-so-memorable "astride a grave" image. But while Pozzo focuses on the inevitability of death, Vladimir focuses on the banality of life. Life isn’t meaningless because we die, life is meaningless because we "deaden" it with purposeless habit.