Waiting for Godot


Samuel Beckett

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Waiting for Godot makes teaching easy.

Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Humor and the Absurd Theme Icon
Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Icon
Modernism and Postmodernism Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Humanity, Companionship, Suffering, and Dignity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Waiting for Godot, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Icon

As Beckett's title indicates, the central act of the play is waiting, and one of the most salient aspects of the play is that nothing really seems to happen. Vladimir and Estragon spend the entire play waiting for Godot, who never comes. Estragon repeatedly wants to leave, but Vladimir insists that they stay, in case Godot actually shows up. As a result of this endless waiting, both Vladimir and Estragon are "bored to death," as Vladimir himself puts it. Both Vladimir and Estragon repeat throughout the play that there is "nothing to be done" and "nothing to do." They struggle to find ways to pass the time, so they end up conversing back and forth about nothing at all—including talking about how they don't know what to talk about—simply to occupy themselves while waiting. The boredom of the characters on-stage mirrors the boredom of the audience. Beckett has deliberately constructed a play where not only his characters, but also his audience wait for something that never happens. Just like Estragon and Vladimir, the audience waits during the play for some major event or climax that never occurs. Audience members might at times feel uncomfortable and want, like Estragon, to leave, but are bound to stay, in case Godot should actually arrive later in the play.

All of this waiting for nothing, talking about nothing, and doing nothing contributes to a pervasive atmosphere of nihilism in the play. Broadly defined, nihilism is a denial of any significance or meaning in the world. Deriving from the Latin word for "nothing" (nihil), it is a worldview centered around negation, claiming that there is no truth, morality, value, or—in an extreme form—even reality. This seems to describe the world of the play, largely emptied out of meaning, emotion, and substance, leading to characters who blather on endlessly in insignificant conversation. Given the play's deep exploration of the absurd humor and feelings of alienation that arise from this nihilistic understanding of the world, one could say that Waiting for Godot is, at its core, about nothing.

Related Themes from Other Texts
Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…

Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism appears in each act of Waiting for Godot. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
act length:
Get the entire Waiting for Godot LitChart as a printable PDF.
Waiting for Godot PDF

Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Quotes in Waiting for Godot

Below you will find the important quotes in Waiting for Godot related to the theme of Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism.
Act 1 Quotes

Nothing to be done.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

One daren't even laugh any more.
Dreadful privation.
Merely smile. (He smiles suddenly from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases as suddenly.) It's not the same thing. Nothing to be done.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

You're sure it was this evening?
That we were to wait.
He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

What do we do now?
Yes, but while waiting.
What about hanging ourselves?
Hmm. It'd give us an erection.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

So that I ask myself is there anything I can do in my turn for these honest fellows who are having such a dull, dull time.
Even ten francs would be a help.
We are not beggars!

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Let's go.
We can't.
Why not?
We're waiting for Godot.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow.

Related Characters: Boy (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

Say, I am happy.
I am happy.
So am I.
So am I.
We are happy.
We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy?
Wait for Godot.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

We came too soon.
It's always at nightfall.
But night doesn't fall.
It'll fall all of a sudden, like yesterday.
Then it'll be night.
And we can go.
Then it'll be day again.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis: