Question: How does Harold Pinter achieve his comic effects in “The Caretaker”? Or, do you call The caretaker a Comedy? Give reasons for your answer. The Comic Elements in The Caretaker.
“The Caretaker” written by Harold Pinter (1930-2008) is the best paradigm of the comedy of humor which is packed up comic effects. Pinter expresses various techniques to gain his comic effects including incongruity of speech or behavior of the character. When a speech or episode becomes so unexpected, so out of place, it becomes funny. The principal sources of comic effects in The Caretaker are Davies’s absurd statements, absurd situations, and absurd behaviors.
Davies’s absurd situation
Inability to understand the significance of the relationship is the main problem of modern people. In the play, we notice that Aston always complains against Davies. Aston says that he cannot sleep for Davies’ snorting and in the mid-night, Aston breaks up Davies’ sleep and forces him to stop his snorting. On the other hand, Davies wants own power in the house. So, he tries to divide two brothers for this reason Davies complains against Aston. At last, Mick rejects Davies from his job.
Mick’s behavior with Davies
Mick’s manipulative behavior with Davies is also evidence of his struggle for power because he starts his encounter with a show of his physical strength as he forces Davies on the ground and asks him:
“What’s the game?”.
Mick also keeps reminding the latter of his inferior status as he is the owner of the place:
“I’m afraid you’re a born fibber, isn’t you? You’re speaking to the owner. This is my room. You’re standing in my house.”
Thus, Mick expresses his power partly through physical violence, but mainly through his sudden changes of tone and attitude when he converses with Davies.
Irony but very comic
Harold Pinter ironically displays some comic effects that’s why the audience is able to distinguish between what a character says and what he actually means. When Mick comments to Davies that Aston is “Work Shy”. Here we notice that he seems to talk about Aston, but in fact, is talking about Davies. Pinter is very expert at creating sudden anti-climaxes which are totally comic. After a highly passionate description of a pair of shoes that Aston has offered him, during which the audience is led to believe that he will accept them, Davies reveals that they “Don’t fit though”. Another anti-climax appears when after terrorizing and assaulting Davies, Mick suddenly says “It’s awfully nice to meet you”. This expression cites surprise and laughter in the audience.
The ending of the play “The Caretaker” is very pathetic and comic. When Davies says that he is not an experienced interior decorator and complains against his brother, Mick makes a verbal assault on Davies. Mick tells him every word he speaks can be interpreted differently. Most of the words are lies. He is violent, unreliable, and completely unpredictable. Mick tells Davies:
“Every word you speak is open to any number of different interpretations. Most of what you say is lies. You’re violent, you’re erratic, you’re just completely unpredictable.”
Then, Mick calls him a wild animal and a barbarian. Mick also speaks him that Davies has failed to go to Sidcup to bring his identity card for references. For this reason, Mick refuses him from the job of caretaker.
In termination, we can say that Harold Pinter presents this comedy with humor and comically because some scenes express humor which is totally funny.