Essay, Research Paper: Caretaker By Pinter


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"Drama is not made up of words alone, but sights and sounds, stillness and
motion, noise and silence." While this quotation is relevant to all areas
of drama, it is particularly pertinent in absurdist theatre and is important in
the construction of Harold Pinter's, The Caretaker. Through these conventions,
sight, sound, stillness, motion, noise and silence, the idea of a random and
lonely world is portrayed. The notion that we are born alone and die alone and
fortuitous, unrelated events happen in between is created by the use of these
techniques throughout the play. The setting is a key aspect in revealing the
ideas from which the play is based. "…a couple of suitcases, a rolled
carpet, a blow-lamp, a wooden chair on it's side, boxes, a number of ornaments,
a clothes horse, a few short planks of wood, small electrical fire and a very
old electric toaster…" this is an excerpt from the description of the
room in which Aston and Davies live. The room is full of "junk",
unconnected things that have been collected over the years and presently have no
real meaning. This is a comment on life and the experiences a person has, each
experience and memory may seem important at the time, like the gathering
"junk" in Aston's room may once have, yet after some time they are no
longer significant and become isolated and dimmer. "…a kitchen sink, a
step-ladder, a coal bucket, a lawnmower, a shopping trolley, boxes side board
drawers," the setting also adds to the idea that people are lonely and
isolated beings, each item is completely unrelated to the others, like people
they are a mixture of things, and therefore can be nothing but isolated. The use
of props is essential in adding meaning to the play. "Mick walks to the gas
stove and picks up the Buddha…He hurls the Buddha against the gas stove. It
breaks.(Passionately.)" Buddha is a symbol of calm and serenity, when it is
broken the organisation and order is also broken. The breaking of the Buddha is
a symbol of mans everlasting struggle with the universe, human beings wish to
order and structure everything, while the universe is constantly moving towards
entropy and chaos. This idea is reflected in the play's outcome, the household
was reasonably calm and ordered until the Buddha was broken and Davies was asked
to leave, a disturbance to the harmony. The utilization of the statue can also
be viewed as comment on human emotions. Throughout the play the characters were
quite detached, both from each other and the outside world, however when Mick
passionately breaks the Buddha (serenity), Davies is requested to leave and the
order that has been displayed throughout the play is lost. The idea being, that
the human emotions work against the human will, the anger exhibited by Mick
disordered a seemingly ordered world. The broken toaster is another fundamental
component of the play. "Aston goes back to his bed and starts to fix the
plug on the toaster." At the very beginning of the play Aston is fixing the
toaster and at the very end, "…takes of his over coat, sits, takes the
screwdriver and pokes the plug," he is still fixing the toaster plug. This
displays the concept that life is meaningless. Nothing was accomplished during
the play. Each character stayed in the same position that they were in to start
with, nothing that they did changed or achieved anything. The sound of the
dripping bucket, which is present throughout the play, helps create meaning.
"A drip sounds in the bucket overhead. They (Mick and Davies) look
up." The dripping sound is a metaphor for all the failings in the world,
those who answer to it fail, those who don't succeed. Later, "A drip sounds
in the bucket. Davies looks up," Davies who is a homeless tramp, a failure
looks up, Mick, who is a success, keeps his attention trained on Davies. The
dripping sound produced by the leak and the bucket also symbolizes the
ever-present menace in the world. The overhead leak is symbolic of the
unstoppable menace and harm that could strike at random, looming overhead.
Silence and pauses are critical to the play and the ideas underlying the play.
Pauses are used to portray the concept that language is a vague and meaningless
tool people use to hide their own discomfort. The pauses indicate that to fill
the silent gap a person must think about what they are going to say to fill it.
More can be said during the pauses and silences than in the actual dialogue.
"What's the game? Silence. Well?" Here the silence is used as passive
aggression. Davies does not answer, resisting Mick, as an act of defiance and
thus aggression. The metatext operating in these silences and pause creates the
feeling of unease and tension. These tense pauses and silences are devices used
throughout the play to display the notion of the constant menace that exists in
the world. The pauses also show that while intense thought is still occurring
inside the characters, nothing is being said out loud. This adds to the sense of
isolation, nobody can know what another is thinking during those pauses, so
people are essentially isolated. The lighting used in Aston's monologue is
significant to the concepts put forth by the play. "During Aston's speech
the room grows darker. By the close of the speech only Aston can be seen
clearly. Davies and all the other objects are in the shadow. The fade down of
the light must be as gradual, as protracted and as unobtrusive as
possible." Aston goes form standing in a room where the light is everywhere
to standing in the light by himself. The fade down is very gradual and leaves
Aston completely alone. This scene is symbolic of the isolation that people
experience. It is also a comment on how fragile people are, most people do not
start out believe they are alone, but gradually the feel the sense of
loneliness, the unobtrusive departure of safety and the introduction of menace
and isolation. The change from child to adult is alluded to in connection with
this realisation of separation in Aston monologue. Through the application of
sight, sound, stillness, motion, noise and silence, meaning can both create and
aid dialogue in the depiction of meaning. In the absurdist play, The Caretaker,
by Harold Pinter much of the play is constructed through these techniques.
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