speech in pinter's caretaker

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CONTENTS Chapter Abstract 1 1:1 1:2 1:3 2 2:1 2:2 2:3 3 3:1 3:2 4 Introduction ; . . ... ... page i 1 3 5 13 15 . . . . . 15 ..... , . 16 21 25 25

Relevant studies in the field The Co-operative Principle of Grice Verbal strategies examined in this dissertation . The Caretaker A synopsis of The Caretaker An interpretation of The Caretaker Brief character studies of Aston, Davies and Mick . Aspects of Pinter's language Form and function in Pinter?s language

Aspects of the language of The Caretaker . . 29 . An analysis of the intra- and inter-personal relationships of Aston, Davies and Mick in the light of conversational implicatures and verbal strategies . 39 Aston and Davies Aston and Mick Davies and Mick Conclusion 39 45 * 47 57 *.. 59

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Speech in Harold Pinterfs The Caretaker


Lesley D. Clark

This study attempts an analysis of the form and function of the language in Harold Pinter's play, The Caretaker* I aim to establish how linguistic devices are used to reveal and develop dimensions of the characters of the play and their inter-personal relationships. The language is viewed in the light of the Co-operative Principle of Grice; teacher-pupil discourse strategies; adultchild discourse strategies; and various other linguistic devices An explanation is given of Grice's Co-operative Principle, with an illustration of how generalised and standard conversational implicatures arise, and how they are observed or flouted. These are followed by a description of the verbal strategies I use in my analysis. They include censure, implicit and explicit directives, the withholding of information, and the refusal to participate in turn-taking. I give a synopsis of The Caretaker, my interpretation of the play and brief character studies of Aston, Davies and Mick


to provide the necessary background against which the psychological development of the characters and their relationships need to be viewed. I then explore the dual level at which the language works; its superficial linguistic form, and its symbolic function. try to show how psychological aspects of the characters and their relationships are revealed in the symbolic undertones that their seemingly vernacular speech has. Various aspects of the language are considered, such as repetition, with the conclusion that these contribute greatly to our understanding of the characters and their relationships in The Caretaker* Selected exchanges, between Davies and Aston, revealing I

Davies and Mick, and Aston and Mick are analysed,

that the verbal strategies used show Davies to be the subordinate character. Adult-child strategies-are used to establish Aston i as the superior in his relationship with Davies; -teacher-pupil strategies are used to'establish Mick as superior to Davies. The aspects of character revealed through conversational implicature are also examined, showing that these support the insights into characters1 motives and relationships provided by the other strategies examined. Finally, I conclude that through my linguistic analysis of The Caretaker, it is possible to see how the characters' internal motivations and their relationships are established and negotiated through specific linguistic strategies and devices employed, in their verbal exchanges*



The main aim of this dissertation is to. consider the form and function of the language used in Pinter's play The Caretaker (Pinter I960)* Byf

form f I mean the linguistic

structure of the language and by 'function', its use to create meaning outside of its semantic form. I hope to show how

various linguistic devices (defined in the remainder of this chapter), provide meaningful insights into the characters1 interior motives and serve to develop or reveal aspects of their intra- and inter-personal relationships,

I shall focus on the application of the 'Co-operative Principle1, as defined by Grice, to ascertain at what points" in the dialogue conversational maxims are ignored and where

conversational implicatures arise from 'observed' or f flouted 1 ' j .' ' conversational maxims to see what dramatic significance these incidents have. I shall also relate teacher-pupil and adult-

child verbal strategies^as well as speaking and turn-taking rules (Burton 1980)j> to the text to show how they aid character development*

As the discourse analysed"is in written form, no account will be taken of supra-segmental features, such as stress and intonation, from which inferences can arise.

Pinter's work is interesting material for linguistic analysis because within the field of literary criticism, his plays are renowned for their linguistic content more than any other twentieth-century British dramatist T s. "Pinter's plays

are often labelled as !Theatre of Language1 (Vannier, 1971), where vernacular speech is presented as a spectacle, the action of the plays being embedded in the dialogues. Quigley points out: "the point to be grasped about the verbal activity in a Pinter play is that language is not so much a means of referring to structure in personal relationships as a means of creating it. Characters are constantly engaged in exploring, reinforcing or changing the relationship that obtains between them and their current situations." (1975 ) I hope to illustrate how this is done in this paper. For some critics the discourse in Pinter's plays can be regarded as an accurate portrayal of everyday speech (Esslin, 1977). For others, it is language fenriched' (Ganz, 1972) with As

profound, symbolic meaning and dramatic significance. It is not my intention to determine whether PinterTs language is ! real f or not, as the language of stage dialogues must be more selective than that of ordinary conversations to hold an audience's attention* However, I do aim to provide

evidence to support and combine both of the above views through a linguistic analysis of the play, by showing how the language works at the * levels of form and of function.

In the remainder of this chaper, I. outline relevant research'in the field. (1":"1), then provide a:''definition of Gric's Co-operative-..Principle (1967) (l:-2) and outline the discourse strategies used in my analysis (1:3).

In chapter 2, I provide a synopsis of the play (see 2:1), my own interpretation of it and give a brief character study of Davies, Aston and Mick (2:3)* This is

to provide the background against which the character development needs to be viewed* Then, in chapter 3, I examine the

form and function of Pinter!s language (see 3:1) and include the opinions of various literary critics on the topic. I

also consider other aspects of Pinter's language (3:2) to show how they contribute to the character portrayal. Chapter 4

considers how the relationship between the characters Aston ; and Davies, Mick and Davies, and Aston and Mick are developed through conversational implicature and the verbal strategies outlined in 1:3. Finally in chapter 5, I draw a number of

conclusions about the language of The Caretaker.

1:1 Relevant studies in the field

Burtoni.61983) presents "A stylistic study of Pinter's "i play !The Dumb Waiter'11 in Dialogue and Discourse. In

her study, she examines the relationship between the two characters, Ben and Gus, and concludes that for the most part, "the text sets up very clear participant relationships, with Ben as the superior, managerial mem ber and Gus forced Into a subservient and Inferior role*11 In her analysis of the text, she discusses a variety of, different verbal strategies that she claims are used to

portray Ben as the dominant figure and Gus as the inferior. She looks at initiations, questions, requests for speaker's rights, requests for permission and the volunteering of information^ in detail. This is to show that the verbal

strategies employed are those of adult-child interactions* She then focuses on aspects of GusT behaviour that are specifically childlike. She claims that Ben and Gus interact She

in roles similar to those of a teacher and pupil.

examines strategies of directives, praise and censure, monitoring of time, authority and social convention judgements, and metastatements about form, appropriateness and legitimacy. She shows how all of these verbal strategies can be found in teacher-pupil relationships and clearly demonstrates how Ben is heard to be in the dominant position and Gus to be the inferior. In a short paper entitled Pinterls "The Caretaker, a

study in conversational analysis11, Kripa K. Gautam gives a short study of the way the characters in The Caretaker pattern their conversational strategies to indicate the nature and scope of the relationships they desire with each other. He briefly examines how Pinter seta, up clear participant relationships through linguistic devices. Gautam

uses Gricers ideas of logic and conversation in his analysis. He examines exchanges in the light of the Co-operative Principle and verbal strategies described by Sinclair and and by Sacks. Coulthard,

HB concludes that Pinter articulates "the silence of tension underlying .their -verbal manoeuvres. Furthermore, he claims that the~'characters use language more as an!l

armour against the external menace than as a weapon to cope

with their ontological solitude11. (1987:58).


The Co-operative Principle of Grice (1967)

In this section, I explain Grice's Co-operative principle and conversational maxims. I then discuss

'generalized' and 'standardized1 conversational implicatures and give extracts from The Caretaker to illustrate how they arise*f

Finally, I explain the properties of