Ambiguity in Pinter's 'the Caretaker'

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  • Topic: Theatre of the Absurd, The Caretaker, Samuel Beckett
  • Pages : 4 (1253 words )
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  • Published : April 10, 2012
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‘Everything in the play is ambiguous’ (Innes) Discuss this assessment of ‘The Caretaker’

When I saw the Caretaker, I told Pinter I knew what it meant, “It’s about the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New, and Humanity, isn’t it?”. Pinter replied, “No Terry, it’s about a caretaker and two brothers”.

With this quote Terence Rattigan succinctly highlights the absolute ambiguity of Harold Pinter’s ‘The Caretaker’; in this story of two brothers and an elderly derelict in close quarters, everything that is said and not said can be understood in all sorts of contradictory ways. Rattigan saw three characters as the holy trinity made flesh, whilst critic Kenneth Tynan thought they represented the id the ego and the superego; bringing to light the plethora of interpretations that have been made. ‘The Caretaker’ does have has certain apparent and comprehensible aspects, for example, we know which character is saying what. In play such as Martin Crimps ‘Attempts on her Life’, the ambiguity lies in the lack of defined roles or delegated lines. However, it is the genre, meaning and the characters themselves in ‘The Caretaker which remain open to elucidation, hence everything within the play is certainly ambiguous to a degree.

The play’s fluid genre lends itself to a certain amount of ambiguity. Published and first performed in 1960, it has a thread of the Theatre of the Absurd woven through it., a designation for a style of theatre which evolved from the work of numerous playwrights in the mid twentieth century. Martin Esslin, a Hungarian-born critic, coined the term "Theatre of the Absurd", referring to these plays which experimented with the expansive theme of absurdity. This seemed to be a manifestation of man’s reaction to a post-world war world that was viewed as having no or little meaning. Because of the lack of plot and action within the narrative, and the erratic, illogical language, ‘The Caretaker’ earned its absurdist status, and is often...
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