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Monday, 25 March 2019

In what sense is The Caretaker a critique of Society?

The Caretaker appears to be a critique of society not in a broad sense but in its limited aspects. That is a number of aspects of society appear to come under criticism in the play. In their different ways both Davies and Aston are victims of society. Davies cannot cope with its complexity and Aston has a damaged mentality but society makes no attempt to help them. Davies seems to be doomed to perpetual loneliness, while Aston, also lonely, relies on the unpredictable companionship of his brother. Both the characters lack fulfilment.
The caretaker

Davies is a man rejected by society because he does not have his 'papers' without the documentary evidence by which society labels and categorises its members, he is a lost case. The individual is not recognised by society. It recognises only a name and number on a piece of paper, and without these papers the individual does not exist. So Davies is condemned to wander rootless and unwanted, terrified by vague fears of persecution. He does not know the technical terms mentioned by Mick, the references to house owning and purchase, insurance, and banking, bonus schemes, etc but society gives importance to the knowledge of such things, possessed by its members. Thus without papers, Davies is a man without identity.

Aston is also a victim of society, but his case is different. His operation may be interpreted as society's retribution, and a symbol of the fear in which it holds the person who is a potential threat to it. Any such threat must be cruelly and immediately destroyed, in this case by taking away Aston's ability to think.

Racial prejudice is also criticised in The Caretaker through the character of Davies, and is revealed as the greatest of follies. Davies's hatred of coloured people is simply a cover for his own deficiencies, and his fear of them is irrational. Racial prejudice allows Davies to blame others for what is actually his own fault.Further Mick's dream of a "penthouse" flat is also an implied criticism of society. Mick's greatest aim in life seems to be to bring the house up to the standards that modern society finds desirable. His plan of the decoration of the house will change its appearance but its basic structure will remain the same as will the people inside it. What Mick wants is to coat the surface of the house, but go no deeper. Such an aim is made to appear trivial, false value in a society.

To sum up, The Caretaker is not wholly a social criticism. Of course, it has an element of social criticism in it, but this is overshadowed by other themes such as loneliness, isolation, communication, identity, dreams and illusions, etc.

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