One Act PlayThe Dumb Waiter by Pinter

Fusion of Realism and Absurdism in The Dumb Waiter

6 Mins read

The Dumb Waiter is the last out of three earliest plays by Pinter throughout 1957 that extraordinarily possess the Absurd Theatre traits. This Absurd Play that projects the life of two employed killers in certainly one of their missions is highly flavored with realistic essence, which largely is in contradiction with Absurd Theatre principle.

The Absurd Theatre is a dramatic movement or to be more precise “‘anti-literary’ movement of our time”. One of the basic points in creation of this movement was World War II, its chaos and other people’s status after the war, which undoubtedly alters dramatists’ vision in the direction of the universe and stimulates them to image man as a helpless alien with the pitiable situation on this abominable world.

Pinter’s concern is concerning the latent layers of people’ relationship; his attention is paid to the profound meaning of individuals’ words and action. With this vision, he fashions his new approach in Absurd Theatre and underlines the reality in his dramatic works.

Pinter’s dramatic works could be divided into three phases. The first phase of his writing includes the savor of absurdity and menace hovers throughout his earliest plays. The second interval is related to more touches on past and memory and within the third phase of his drama completely turns to political ones. But in all three phases, Pinter always withholds reality in his works identical because the constant reality in his political works, which is named ‘political reality’.

Pinter was terribly influenced by Beckett, and he explicitly claims “if Beckett’s influence shows in my work, that’s all right with me. You don’t write in a vacuum: you’re bound to absorb and digest other writing and I admire Beckett’s work so much that something of its texture might appear in my own.”

The effect of Becket’s Waiting for Godot is clearly discernable in The Dumb Waiter because the motifs of waiting and superior-inferior relationship on a distinct plane in each play are the identical. In The Dumb Waiter in contrast to Pinter’s earlier works, he drops the female characters like Waiting for Godot.

The Dumb Waiter pictures two hit men, Ben and Gus, who’re preparing for their mission. They are waiting in a windowless basement room with two doors, one into outside, and the other into the lavatory. Their passive motion and their repetitive concept of their communication current them because the obedient puppets to their higher master. As the play proceeds, Gus boldly expresses his discontent with Wilson, their invisible master and organization and, ultimately, due to this impudence, he’s sentenced to death.

One of the numerous factors about The Dumb Waiter is the evolvement of its characters and setting in Pinterian method. We encounter with the descent procedure of setting in The Dumb Waiter since in Pinter’s earlier works the room was respectively positioned in upper stair and ground.

The Dumb Waiter illustrates via two powerless gunmen the menacing situation of the human being before a higher power. Their inferior position, their lack of certainty, their current room and eventually their lack of knowledge about their proximity all show their piteous status and define them because the absurd modern men. The environment of menace on this play encompasses the characters, tightly and the godlike figure dumb waiter intensifies the dreadful milieu by its cryptic menus.

Read About: Comparative Study of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter

The Dumb Waiter is furnished with a number of reasonable elements, such as actual setting and characters, actual menace, actual uncertainty and actual domination of actual power. All these realistic elements highlight the amalgam of absurdism and realism on this play.

The Dumb Waiter’s setting is a bed-sitting windowless basement room, which is embellished with two beds in a depressing and heavy environment. The setting and its furniture are all depicted extremely realistically and one can see the important stuff of domestic life. Pinter himself dramatizes the picture of the room on the very beginning of the play as follows.

“Scene: A basement room. Two beds, flat against the back wall. A serving hatch, closed, between the beds. A door to the kitchen and lavatory, left. A door to a passage, right.”

(The Dumb Waiter, Pinter)

Ben and Gus, The Dumb Waiter’s characters usually are not inhuman or unusual, however very human and real. They are two skilled assassins who struggle to stabilize their unsure status. Ben by using an crucial type of language tries to find out his place as Gus’s senior and Gus retains on questioning Ben and organization to point out his dissatisfaction with the established order. So, these two characters utterly possess the standard of two sensible men they usually merely are the mannequin for contemporary men in modern civilization.

Menace, the inseparable element of Pinter’s works, casts its horror shadow over the play from its exact beginning and it’s intensified by forwarding the play. Menace as one of many momentous elements in Absurd Theatre represents in The Dumb Waiter highly realistically. Gus is more endangered by this palpable menace as he feels one thing is wrong along with his partner. He guesses Ben is aware of more than him, that’s why He barrages him with varied questions:

Why did he send us matches if he knew there was no gas?… Why did he do that?… Who sends us those matches?… Who is it upstairs?… Who is it, though?… I ask you a question… I ask you before. Who moved in? I asked you. You said the people who had it before moved out. Well, who moved in?… Well, what’s he playing all these games for? That’s what I want to know. What’s he doing for?”

(The Dumb Waiter, Pinter)

Lack of knowledge places one within the lower level. Here, the superior-inferior relationship is formed between the people and clearly the superior one at all times is more powerful since knowledge is power. Thus, the inferior person should obey his highly effective superior to no complaint and carry out his orders, even it’s towards his will, otherwise he encounters with severe issues such as Gus who lost his life.

Gus’s unawareness of his circumstances alters him to the person of questions. His inquiry about their job, situation, boss and organization or his consecutive complains about every little thing makes Ben and consequently the audience crazy:

Why did he send us matches if he knew there was no gas?… Why did he do that?… Who sends us those matches? …

Who is it upstairs?… Who is it, though?… I ask you a question… I ask you before. Who moved in? I asked you.

You said the people who had it before moved out. Well, who moved in?… Well, what’s he playing all these games for? That’s what I want to know. What’s he doing for?”

(The Dumb Waiter, Pinter)

Uncertainty is one other problematic matter in new civilized society that it exploited absurdist dramatists out of this of their works. People of our age constantly struggle with uncertainty. Gus and Ben, because the representative of contemporary man, picture this example in the best way. For them, nothing is certain.

Communication in The Dumb Waiter like different absurd plays is fractured. Basically simple, Ben and Gus can’t communicate correctly with one another, as certainly one of them deliberately has no want to speak. Ben amuses himself by studying the newspaper and doesn’t pay attention to Gus’s speech. For occasion, when Ben is studying the information concerning the death of an old man, Gus asks how did it happen? Then, Ben replies him by repeating the news:

BEN. A man of eighty-seven wanted to cross the road. But there was a lot of traffic, see? He couldn’t see how he was going to squeeze through. So he crawled under a lorry.

GUS. Who advised him to do a thing like that?

BEN. A man of eighty-seven crawling under a lorry!

(The Dumb Waiter, Pinter)

Ben’s silence is due to defending himself from the possible danger by their invisible master in addition to “is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness”. Also, on the end of the play, the 2 killers stare at one another by way of a long silence, a silence that occults “a torrent of language” behind it. So each aforementioned silences by Pinter happen in The Dumb Waiter.

Pinter employs silence as an inarticulate language, to point out the absurdity of the people, which could be thought-about as one of many mere actuality of the modern society. Another facet of silence “contributes to that social smoke screen we call decorum, tact, and consideration”.

The Dumb Waiter portrays the monotonous life of Ben and Gus within the actual way and reveals how menace and boring is their job. Their latter mission extremely impresses Gus and induces him to assume profoundly concerning the aforesaid matters.

Gus can’t stop eager about the girl who was murdered of their former mission and the memory of her hunted him on and off:

“I was just thinking about that girl, that’s all… She wasn’t much to look at, I know, but still. It was a mess though, wasn’t it? What a mess. Honest, I can’t remember a mess like that one. They don’t seem to hold together like men, women. A looser texture, like. Didn’t she spread, eh? She didn’t half spread. Kaw! But I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

(The Dumb Waiter, Pinter)

At the upper level of meaning girl’s reminiscence that tormented Gus reveals his delicate side and the sense of humanity which isn’t completely annihilated in him. This reminiscence makes him awake of his lengthy hibernation, so like a baby boy, he questions every little thing around him that last ends along with his murder.

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