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The setting and structure of the play The Caretaker

The setting of The Caretaker is realistic. The entire action of the play takes place in one room, which contributes to the mood and thematic development. The house itself is assumed to be located in hackney London. Symbolically the room, with its clutter of incongruous objects, helps us understand the clutter of Aston's mind. But there is more to the room than this. For one thing, it allows Pinter to explore an idea which features often in his plays--that is, the disruptive intrusion of an outsider (or out siders) into an established and safe environment. Although the room belongs to Mick, it is Aston's identity which it most represents. In this room he feels secure from the outside world. Davies seeks to oust him  and establish himself in his place.
setting and structure of the play The Caretaker

There are only three acts and three characters in the play, and no changes of scene, and by introducing the third character in Act 2 Pinter avoids what otherwise might have been a rather tedious lack of variety in the play. This small number of characters and the apparent simplicity of the plot, disguise the craft which has gone into the structure of the play. Each act builds to a memorable climax which focuses our attention on one of the characters. Act One concludes with the unexpected violence of Mick; Act Two with Aston's disturbing soliloquy; Act Three with the pathetic winning of Davies, whose attempt to secure his place in the room has ironically resulted in his expulsion.

The unity of the play is achieved not only by the careful pattern of the episodes involving Davies and one or other of the brothers, but also by the repetition of key words, phrases and actions. Among the most important of these are Aston's persistent fiddling with the electric plug and his comments about the shed, Davies's need for shoes, his journey to Sidcup, the fact that he smells, his fear of the gas stove, the noises he makes when he is sleeping and his complaints about the draught. These recurring preoccupations show how little has changed by the end of the play. Davies is once again an outcast, and the powerful relationship between Mick and Aston is as strong as ever.

The structure of the play is thus circular and the characters in the play are part of this structure, in that despite much talking and arguing they find themselves at the end in exactly the same position as they were at the start. It is as if the characters, like the plot, are locked in a circle out which they cannot break, and from which the only escape is a dream, be it Sidcup, or a refurbished house.


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