EPIGRAPH: "It is not every day that we are needed." (Samuel Beckett)
What's up with the epigraph?
Eggers takes this line from Samuel Beckett's crazy-influential play Waiting for Godot. In this play, two characters called Didi and Gogo are waiting for—no shocker here—a guy named Godot to arrive.
Godot never shows…and we never really learn what benefit Didi and Gogo would reap from his arrival. But they do put a lot of stock in his presence.
It's Didi who speaks the lines that Eggers quotes here. He starts off his speech with the kind of optimism that we recognize in Alan Clay:
"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed!"
But Didi's optimism is undercut by the end of this short speech by a sense of personal insignificance and of the futility of human existence:
"Not indeed that we are personally needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better […]"
Alan's struggle to find meaning or purpose from his life experiences mirrors Didi's desire to keep on keepin' on in the face of some harsh facts: the universe is cold, meaningless, and uncaring.