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Power Relations Of The Characters In Pinter's Old Times

4607 words - 18 pages

Harold Pinter’s plays reflect most common themes of the 20th century drama such as the loss of meaning and identity. In Pinter’s plays, the characters are depicted as they are in constant struggle for asserting their identity and meaning to their existence. Since they feel insecure about both their existence and identity, they feel the need to dominate others for the sake of asserting sovereignty over what they possess. In that way, they think they can define their existence and identity. Overpowering others is a way of feeling confident about themselves and their surroundings. Thus, Pinter’s plays represent themselves as battlefields in which every character is on guard to fight against the other for feeling secure in an insecure world, as Cahn points out that : “This battle is, at its core, a struggle for power, power that in and of itself provides some verification” (5). All Pinter’s plays are models of power structures in which characters dominate others. The weapons that they use for dominating are the recollection of the past and the language. Pinter’s Old Times is a good example for reflecting the characters’ struggle for power with the help of their recollections and use of language.

Old Times is a memory play which deals with the recollection of the past. The past is very difficult, almost impossible, to verify, so, Pinter’s characters either cannot remember the past or they are uncertain about its accuracy. Uncertainty of memories causes each character to have a different version of the original recollection. Harold Pinter’s concern is with the motives behind people’s recollections as his characters voluntarily, not arbitrarily, go back to their past, and invoke their memories. One of the most important motives is to dominate others in order to compensate for one’s own inadequacies or insecurities. The characters construct, reconstruct, or deconstruct their recollections of the past according to their own need which is mainly the need for overpowering others. Since past is unstable and it interferes with the present, the line between the present and the past is blurred. So, the characters consciously manipulate the recollections of the past, suggesting that what they remember is true for the present but may not be true for the past.

In Pinter’s drama, an outsider comes into a territory, and threatens the others’ possessions, security, or identity. Thus, the characters are in continuous guard of their territory against the intruders who try to invade it both psychologically and physically. In Old Times, the married couple Deeley and Kate are waiting for their guest, Anna, who is an old friend of Kate. Deeley feels intimidated by Anna’s visit since he regards her as an intruder who is most likely to take over his authority and territory which denote his house and marriage with Kate. For Deeley, their house in the country is a refuge, and Anna’s arrival will bring menace into it.

Deeley reflects his anxiety by asking Kate a...

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