Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
Richard E. Rogers
Several critics have suggested that the plays of Harold Pinter are incomprehensible because the characters do not explicitly explain their actions and motivations. These comments come because the critics and audiences are conditioned to expect a playwright to in some way explain the motivations and personalities of his characters with a standard explanation given through explicit dialog, copious stage directions, or other means. But Pinter believes that it is dangerous for a playwright to design a play with one overall purpose in mind because the chances are that the purpose will be mistaken.
Pinter prefers to write in a realistic way; his plays are like an ordinary conversation between two or more people. In such a conversation because these people are not wearing labels around their necks telling everything there is to know about them, one must listen to a person's words, noting the way they are said as well as the effect they have on other members of the conversation. By noting the tone, pauses, and what information is stated in a character's dialog, one can learn a character's motivation as well as his fears, attitudes, and desires.
The memory plays examined here, written between 1969 and 1975, are especially fruitful for character analysis. In these plays, Pinter explores the nature of subjective memory and the serious conflict resulting from different memories of a common event. A character's profile can be revealed by his confidence or lack of confidence in his personal interpretation of events.
Landscape is the story of a man and a woman who do not seem to be communicating in a normal way. They never talk directly to each other; the woman is caught up in remembering a gentle love affair in the past while the man tries to get her to respond to the things that interest him in the present.
Silence explores the inside of the mind of a girl in her twenties who is trying to sort out the details of two love affairs. She seems to have lost both of the men and is searching for someone to depend upon and give her a clear reality.
Night is a short revue sketch that, in answer to the situation in Landscape, shows that love and maturity between a married couple can prevent differing memories from causing a conflict. It also shows that individuality does remain in marriage.
Old Times shows that a strong subjective memory of an event can protect a person from being forced to accept another's differing memory of the same event as the truth.
No Man's Land describes an intruder who not only tries to influence the host into accepting him, but he also tries to influence the audience as well. Pinter also uses audience preconceptions about language and style to show his views of subjective reality.
Grohne, Douglas E., "Character Motivation and Definition Through Dialog in the Memory Plays of Harold Pinter" (1981). Masters Theses. 3002.