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Samuel Beckett's Use of Pairs, Doubling or Binary Oppositions in Waiting for Godot

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This essay will analyse and discuss the duality of pairing, doubling and binary oppositions in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. Waiting for Godot is an ambiguity which permits for a variety of readings, the play consisting of many interpretations that can exist alongside one another without being jointly exclusive. Duality is an important part of the play as it permits the use of foils, through the use of foils it highlights the practice of these doublings or pairings, to demonstrate the need for co-dependency. Pairing and doubling is also utilized in order to emphasize Becketts ideas on existentialism, applying this technique in the play through characters such as Pozzo and his slave lucky and Vladimir and Estragon. Lastly, Beckett at times may apply binary oppositions to emphasize underlining themes of freedom and confinement, also linking these themes to religion. Godot being the representation of a metaphorical God, present in the minds of many yet physically absent, omniscient. In regard to the binary opposition, religion can be embodied as a confinement, waiting and praying for something that will never reveal itself or come just like Godot, but can also be interpreted as liberating as religion often speaks upon humankind being given free will and morals. The play is said to conceal these literary techniques due to it being a successful representation of ‘absurd theatre’.

In ‘Waiting for Godot’ binary oppositions are illustrated through the themes of freedom and confinement. In the play many of the characters that we are exposed to in ‘Waiting for Godot’ seem to reside in a prison of their own making. The characters seem to be restricted to a state of passiveness and immobility by their absence of choice to act on their own accord. Beckett uses the character lucky, who is no more than a slave, to demonstrate that he is no more restricted than the others who consider themselves free; in actual fact, Lucky may be less restricted than the others because he is at least conscious of his confinement. Although Lucky is a slave, his masters are in more of a prison in their own consciousness, Lucky may be owned by someone and not in charge of his body or actions, however Vladimir and Estragon are in a confinement of their own mentality. This is evident where Vladimir and Estragon are shown to be metaphorical slaves bound to the concept of Godot and slaves to Pozzo whereas Lucky is given orders and told what to do, this at best offers Lucky a sense of security, something which the others crave. Another example of where this is evident is in Act 1, we gather that Pozzo deems that his doing is beneficial to lucky, that he is doing Lucky a service by enslaving him; and, in one manner, he is. This could be the explanation behind Beckett selecting that particular name for a slave who merely plays the part of a submissive slave, that Lucky should be considered lucky—someone is there to tell him what to do. If Lucky was left to his own devices much like Vladimir and Estragon, he would be just as helpless and miserable.

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In Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, pairing, doubling, is used to reflect that the conventions can be subverted, in this case to highlight the concept of human dependency. Beckett himself suggested that in order to survive, human beings must rely on each other in order to flourish and develop. Therefore, doubling is cleverly utilized through the characters in the play by pairing the characters in doubles. An example of this is clearly shown through Pozzo and Lucky, Vladimir and Estragon, but also the two messenger boys that make themselves known at the end of Act I and reappear in Act II. Vladimir and Estragon can be seen as a paring as the relationship between the two is something that is unbreakable, in ‘Waiting for Godot’, Vladimir acts as a metaphorical mind, combatting with theological and philosophical thoughts, whilst Estragon embodies the body, Beckett often portrays Vladimir as an intellectual whilst also portraying Estragon as the more materialistic individual who also only ever seeks bodily pleasures. One can say that the reason for Becketts pairing is that the characters fear loneliness and therefore are tied together, clinging onto the hope that they can establish any type of communication with one another. Another instance when doubling is used, is evident at the End of Act I and once again at the end of Act II as mentioned before, the messenger boy appears but as different people, the boys approach the tramp with the information that Godot will be coming that following day and displays no familiarity of coming with the similar message the day before. This is Beckett’s way of delivering the repetitive theme of hope as an illusion, however, is also his way of highlighting the cyclical sequence of everyday life. This theme is central to the play as a whole, as Beckett manages to embed and express his existentialist beliefs throughout his work even though there is a very short encounter with the boy on both accounts. However, these doublings and pairings such as Pozzo and lucky in particular can also be deliberate in order to highlight Becketts ideals on existentialism. These characters act as antithetical to one another, and they are forcefully bound to each other thus developing the ideas around using doubles to depict the forceful need of human dependency, although it is a forced relation, Pozzo still depends of Lucky not only as his slave but someone to share a human connection with, even if through meaningless conversations.

Furthermore, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot repetitively displays the concepts of instability and/or decidability, thus allowing a variety of interpretations whenever these binary items substitute places. The structure of play also highlights the dramatic divisions made by Beckett in order to make a statement about his ‘absurd’ play, to reveal the plays circular structure. It can be argued that the structure of the play in general acts as a pairing and division. A pairing because of its repetitive nature in which the actions in the first act are often repeated in the second act. A few example of where this is evident is once analysing the larger concepts of the play such as the repetition of trying to make time pass, waiting for Godot who never appears and their attempts to part with one another; these similarities are a pairing in itself. In summarisation, this altogether comes to be a juxtaposition in itself, however, it can go on to being interpreted that Beckett has written a two-pronged play in which both has no meaning. In continuance of this idea One could argue that there is no actual set in stone pairing or doubling or binary oppositions and is just one of the many forced interpretations because in reality Beckett wrote the play to have no simple meaning, with its no structure or plot or sense of time. It is an uncomplicated play with no plot, at the face of value it could be described as a play about nothing.

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Samuel Beckett’s Use of Pairs, Doubling or Binary Oppositions in Waiting for Godot. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from
“Samuel Beckett’s Use of Pairs, Doubling or Binary Oppositions in Waiting for Godot.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Samuel Beckett’s Use of Pairs, Doubling or Binary Oppositions in Waiting for Godot. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Oct. 2022].
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