Caretaker By Pinter “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.