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Biplob Prodhan
  • 3 weeks ago
  • 26
Describe the theme of isolation in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. [NU. 2014]

Ans. Isolation or loneliness is one of the themes of The Caretaker, and it is a theme which is expressed mainly through the characters of Davies and Aston. Davies is alone when Aston rescues him from the brawl at the café, and after a brief interlude he is left alone again at the end of the play.

One of the sad ironies of the play is that Davies realises his isolation and how much the companionship of the house has meant to him only when it is too late, and he has destroyed the chance of ending that isolation. He says to Aston:

“You been a good friend to me. You took me in.
You took me in, you didn’t ask me questions,
You gave me a bed, you been a mate to me.”

Davies is an outcast, a vagrant, someone cut off from society. We can understand that his isolation is a terrible thing. Yet Pinter’s double-edged vision means that the audience are not presented simply with a character deserving their sympathy. They are shown clearly that at least some of this isolation is self-imposed. Davies is aggressive, defiant, and instable. He is embittered, full of racial prejudice, almost completely selfish, and lacking any sense of loyalty and gratitude. On more practical level, he does, ‘stink, and he keeps Aston awake with his groaning and noise at night. In short, he is a thoroughly unpleasant person. The result is a complex reaction, Whereby pity is mingled with an awareness that Davies’s isolation is inevitable.

Aston’s isolation is a different case. He does not like to go into the midst of people and talk to them. He always tries to avoid places like café. His offer to Davies of a room and a job, and his kindness towards him, suggest a man desperate for human companionship, as isolated and lonely in his way as Davies is in his. Yet Aston’s isolation is not as simple as that of Davies, and springs from a different cause. Davies trusts none, and turns on those who try to help him, as when he tries to join Mick in an alliance against Aston. By rejecting him society, he does no more than pay him back in his own coin. But Aston’s fault seems to have been exactly the opposite; he seems to have trusted people too much. He committed the same mistake earlier in the factory, and his reward for this trust was to be betrayed by his mother, and be forced to undergo a loathsome operation on his brain. He trusted too much, Davies not at all, but the result is the same for both-isolation and loneliness.

The saddest irony of all is that although both the characters need the companionship that is at least present in potential in their relationship, they are unable to realise it. Thus, Pinter wants to say that human beings are destined to be lonely. The more they cry out for an end to this, the more its certainty is assured. There is, of course, one major difference between the two characters: Davies is completely alone, but Aston with his brother Mick is a relationship that seems indissoluble. Yet there are doubts on this type of relationship the one based on family, by the treachery’ of Aston’s mother, the hints, that Mick might also have betrayed Aston in allowing the operation to proceed and his apparent whiteness in Act III to leave Aston to his own devices.

Thus, The Caretaker presents loneliness as one of the horrors of modern life.

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Biplob Prodhan
Biplob Prodhan Founder & Director EDNOUB Foundation Ednoub Private Program

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