Numerous critics have said that much of the action of “ The Caretaker ” by Harold Pinter is dominated by the characters ‘ battle for power over one another. As Michael Billington remarked in his book “ The Life and Work of Harold Pinter ” , “ Power is the subject: dominate or be dominated. ” Pinter shows, Billington continued, “ That life is a series of dialogues for advantage in which everything comes into drama. ” Indeed, in “ The Caretaker ” , this frequently seems to be the instance. Davies tries to play Aston and Mick against each other as he struggles to set up a bridgehead in the room. Mick maintains power over Davies by physical every bit good as verbal assaults. And at the terminal of the drama, Aston exerts his power by coercing Davies to go forth ; the battle for power is a dominant subject in the drama.
On the other manus, Mick does hold at least some feeling, even if merely a sense of duty, for his brother and is, in fact, taking attention of at least some of Aston ‘s demands by leting him to remain in the room. Although he expresses choler at his brother when he breaks the Buddha against the range, although he tells Davies that Aston ‘s problem is that he does non desire to work, Mick does support Aston against Davies ‘s cruel comments – and he allows Aston to remain in the room. The desire for power motivates him but it is non his lone motive. However, it does look just to see the desire for power as a primary motive for both Davies and Mick.
While Davies and Mick are dominated by their ain thrusts for power, to propose rather the same of Aston is to simplify his character every bit good as the drama as a whole. Aston ‘s efforts to care for Davies and to speak to him look motivated, at least in portion, by kindness and concern for the hobo. On the other manus, it is difficult to see Aston as motivated wholly by selflessness. Indeed, one could reason that Aston is sort to Davies because he wants to command him, because he wants to run into his ain demands and therefore is as motivated by power as are Davies and Mick.
In truth, neither reading of Aston ‘s character captures the whole adult male. Aston does do an attempt to run into his ain demands but non in a misanthropic hunt for power. What Aston truly desires throughout most of the drama is existent contact with another human being. It is merely when his attempts at connexion fail that Aston exerts simple power over Davies.
In Act I, after the gap scene in which Mick looks about the blue room, so leaves, Aston comes onstage followed by Davies. Upon come ining the room, Davies begins to talk of the brush that led Aston to convey him place. Davies was involved in some kind of hassle at the eating house where he was working, and Aston saw a adult male “ hold a spell ” at Davies. In associating this incident, Davies complains a great trade about his intervention at the eating house, claiming that he was non being treated harmonizing to his station, that he was told to make work he considered beneath him.
In malice of his concern with his topographic point in the universe, nevertheless, it is clear from Davies ‘s apparels that he is a hobo and, whether such a point of view is moral or non, most alleged “ respectable ” people would see him beneath them. While many would experience sorry for person in Davies ‘s place, about no 1 would really take such a individual place to care for him. Aston ‘s conveying Davies place, hence, seems an act of unbelievable kindness.
Such kindness can besides be seen to some extent in the manner Aston and Davies converse. For the most portion, Davies speaks and Aston listens, digesting the old adult male ‘s ailments, ne’er disputing even the most absurd of Davies ‘s claims, such as his averment that adult females have frequently asked him if he would wish to hold them look at his organic structure. When Aston does talk to Davies, most of the clip he asks inquiries about the old adult male ‘s demands and desires.
As Act I continues, Aston makes a figure of offers to Davies and these offers seem to intensify in appendage. He offers the hobo a coffin nail, places, and money. He says he will recover the properties Davies left in the eating house. He offers to allow Davies remain in his ain room and even gives the hobo the keys to the house. By the terminal of the first act, Aston ‘s offers of aid go so utmost that they would look unbelievable to most people. So incredible is Aston ‘s kindness to Davies that it raises the inquiry of motive. It is difficult to accept that a individual could be that sort merely out a sense of duty towards one ‘s fellow adult male.
There are, nevertheless, some intimations that Aston may be moving from something other than kindness, may in fact be seeking to hold Davies fulfill his ain demands. In the first act, Aston twice tells Davies of incidents from his ain life. First he tells Davies a simple narrative – that he went into a saloon and ordered a Guinness, which was served to him in a thick mug. He tells Davies that he could non complete the Guinness because he can merely imbibe out of a Sn glass. Davies wholly ignores Aston ‘s narrative and instantly begins talking about his ain programs to travel to Sidcup.
Subsequently, Aston tells Davies of his sitting in a coffeehouse and speech production to a adult female who, after a brief conversation, put her manus on his and asked if he would wish her to look at his organic structure. Davies responds first with incredulity, stating “ Get out of it, ” so goes on to state that adult females have frequently said the same thing to him, non rather disregarding Aston ‘s comments this clip, but utilizing Aston ‘s experience merely as a agency to tout about himself.
In both instances, there is no logical preliminary to Aston ‘s narratives. They seem to come out of nowhere. The most likely reading seems to be that Aston merely wants person to speak to, and this reading seems borne out in Aston ‘s address in the 2nd act in which he tells of how he was put in a mental infirmary after he “ talked excessively much. ” This suggests that Aston ‘s kindness might stem from his ain demand to link with a human being, any human being, even Davies. If this is the instance, Davies offers no satisfaction to Aston, for the hobo is interested merely in himself.
Toward the terminal of the first act and throughout most of the 2nd, Aston begins to look less motivated by simple kindness. His departure of Davies entirely in the house seems, on the face of it, an act of consideration and of trust but it is in fact slightly equivocal. Aston about surely knows that Mick may come into the house and that, if he does so, he will see Davies as an interloper. In a sense, Aston, while non at this point facing Davies with his ain power, leaves Davies in a place in which he may hold to confront the choler and power of Mick. Thus Aston exerts a kind of familial power over Davies.
After Mick ‘s brush with Davies and Aston ‘s return to the room, Aston continues to demo ambiguity in his intervention of Davies. When Mick keeps Davies ‘s bag from him, Aston makes some effort to acquire the bag back to him, but eventually, he gives the bag to Mick, and it is Mick who returns it to Davies. Aston still attempts to get places for Davies, and
“ Information technology IS ONLY POWER THAT DAVIES UNDERSTANDS ”
He offers him the occupation of caretaker, but he complains that Davies makes noises when he sleeps. When Davies complains about the bill of exchange and rain from the unfastened window, Aston asserts himself by stating Davies that he himself can non kip without the window being unfastened.
Toward the terminal of the 2nd act, though, Aston temporarily gives in to Davies on the affair of the window. He tells Davies he can “ shut it for the clip being. ” In his giving in to Davies in this manner, Aston may be motivated by simple kindness, or he may seek to pacify Davies so that he can once more try to speak to the adult male, to prosecute him in some kind of relationship. Again, this can be interpreted as an attempt to command Davies in order to run into his ain demands.
At this point in the drama, it is more hard to believe that Aston acts merely from kindness. It seems possible that Aston may genuinely be motivated by the desire to pull strings Davies in order to utilize him to fulfill his ain demand for contact. The state of affairs becomes more complicated, nevertheless, at the terminal of Act II, when Aston, in a drawn-out soliloquy, speaks to Davies about his mental problems. Aston tells the narrative of his speaking excessively much in the coffeehouse, of his hallucinations, his committedness, his female parent ‘s treachery, his experience of nonvoluntary electroconvulsive therapy interventions. This soliloquy is like nil else in the drama. Aston tells the hobo a serious narrative about what is about surely the most painful experience of his life.
Aston seems once more to desire person to listen to him, and one could once more reason that he merely wants Davies to run into his ain demands. Such a position, nevertheless, would be excessively simplistic. In stating this narrative to Davies, Aston takes a serious hazard. The societal stigma attached to those who have received such intervention in a mental infirmary, peculiarly electroshock therapy, is strong, particularly in the clip in which Pinter is composing. When Aston tells Davies about his infirmary experience, he makes himself highly vulnerable to the hobo. He gives Davies ammo to utilize against him. This is non a adult male in hunt of power but one who urgently seeks to do existent human contact.
But Aston finally can non do that contact with Davies. Pinter uses illuming to exemplify this. By the terminal of Aston ‘s soliloquy, he entirely can clearly be seen ; Davies stands in the shadows. This shows that no connexion is made. His effort to link with a human being leaves him vulnerable and entirely.
In the concluding act, Davies exploits Aston ‘s minute of honestness. He attempts to ally himself with Mick and against Aston. Aston, one time once more looking to try an act of kindness, continues to seek places for Davies, but the hobo scorns Aston ‘s attempts to assist. In fact, Davies verbally assaults Aston, dissing him, impeaching him of being insane, stating Aston that he could travel back into the infirmary, that he could have electroconvulsive therapy interventions once more. It is at this point that Aston eventually tells Davies he has to go forth. His efforts to be sort to Davies, to link with him, have wholly failed. Even when he tells Davies to go forth, nevertheless, Aston once more shows kindness, offering Davies money. But still he eventually and literally turns his dorsum on Davies as he looks out the window and delaies for the hobo to go forth.
While it is clear that Davies, with no topographic point to travel, is entirely at the terminal of the drama, what is frequently overlooked is the fact that Aston is besides entirely. He has shown kindness to Davies. He has urgently attempted to do existent human contact with him. In the terminal, nevertheless, Aston ‘s desire for connexion can non be saved. It is merely power that Davies understands.