Places: The Caretaker

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1960

First produced: 1960

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Surrealism

Time of work: Twentieth century

Places DiscussedLondon flat

London Caretaker, Theflat. One-room setting for the play’s entire three acts. The time setting is contemporary with the writing. The room is in a run-down house in a run-down area in the west side of London, several of whose districts are mentioned–Shepherd’s Bush, Camden Town, and Finsbury Park. The poor state of the room is instrumental to the plot. A bucket catches rainwater dripping through its leaking roof. The room has no washing or cooking facilities, and there is no heat. The only window is half-covered with a sack, letting in a draft and the rain.

Only Aston’s bed is visible; Davies’ bed is covered by mundane items that form a surreal collection when heaped together. They include a kitchen sink (a nod to the “kitchen-sink” realism of British playwrights of the period), a stepladder, a coal bucket, a lawn mower, a shopping trolley, boxes, and the drawers of a sideboard. All these items must be moved before Davies can sleep on his bed. Beside the bed is a gas stove. Though it is clearly not connected, Davies complains about its presence and the danger of fire or explosion.

Elsewhere in the room are a cupboard containing such items as a clothes horse upon which Davies sometimes hangs his trousers at night, piles of boxes and newspapers, and an electric toaster, which Aston tries to fix throughout the play.

There are other rooms “along the landing” that also belong to the brothers; they are apparently in even worse condition. Beyond the window, to the rear, is an overgrown garden for which Aston has plans–he wants to clear it and build a shed; however, it seems obvious that he never will.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Harold Pinter. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. An eclectic collection of essays by various critics. Comprehensive analyses of early and late writings and selected specific texts.Burkman, Katherine H. The Dramatic World of Harold Pinter: Its Basis in Ritual. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971. An analysis of Pinter’s work viewed through Freudian, Marxist, and myth analyses. Heavy on theory with solid literary analyses of individual plays.Esslin, Martin. Pinter the Playwright. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann Educational Books, 1988. Precise and exhaustive critical study combining biographical details with critical analysis to identify sources of style and theme in Pinter’s work. Written with the assistance of Pinter, it includes discussion of previously unpublished material.Gale, Steven H., ed. Harold Pinter: Critical Approaches. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986. A collection of essays by various critics on a wide range of Pinter’s work. Places the material in the context of contemporary critical theories.Merritt, Susan H. Pinter in Play: Critical Strategies and the Plays of Harold Pinter. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990. Excellent discussion of current and past debates on critical theory as it relates to Pinter’s work. Provides scrupulous textual examination.
Categories: Places