The Room


Harold Pinter’s “The Room” is a short play concerning the dysfunctional nature of conversational relations between people. The play was Pinter’s debut and, given this knowledge, the reader may be struck by the way the play appears as an experiment in the ‘unsaid’. It is interesting how what is omitted from the discourse is effective even in written form, since the void on the paper can be filled with a telling facial expression on stage. In the form of a script the ‘unsaid’ is extremely informing with regards to the narrative. Throughout “The Room” the ‘unsaid’ draws the reader’s attention to specific areas and specific relationships between characters. Pinter may also have employed the technique of omission to supply mystery to certain characters, or a certain character. The character of Bert is interesting in that he does not partake in any dialogue until his return from his journey in his van. This occurs at the end of the play and is the culmination of the suspense surrounding his mystery. The anti-climatic nature of Bert’s character, since he is revealed as being narrow minded and vulgar, is off set by the mystery which suddenly surrounds Rose, his wife. Rose is a constant throughout the play and she is vocal enough for the reader to assume an accurate opinion as to her identity. This assumption is thrown into jeopardy by the introduction of Riley, the blind Negro from the basement. Riley calls her by a different name, Sal, and presumes to know her father. By this point the reader realises that they did not know the character of Rose as well as they may have first thought. Thus, Pinter’s use of the ‘unsaid’ may have created this drama by drawing one’s attention elsewhere and then creeping up behind his audience with uncertain revelations about the most stable character. The play includes three other characters all of which play important roles. Mr Kidd is another character who is enshrouded in mystery. Unsure as to where he sleeps or his actual occupation the character of Mr Kidd represents the uncertain world outside the room. Rose and Bert do not know where he sleeps or if he is their landlord for sure, therefore it is what Mr Kidd does not divulge which makes his character more dramatic. In addition, there are the characters of Mr and Mrs Sands. Mr and Mrs Sands’ inclusion add another dimension to the play. They pose a threat to Rose’s pseudo domestic bliss by saying that they are going to move in to her room. This adds a territorial dimension to Rose’s character and gives the reader further reason to presume a clear understanding of the Rose character.


The behaving activity in the first part of the play, before Mr Kidd enters the narrative, is there for the purpose of filling a void. The void is the second half of the conversation. Rose makes many repeated eliciting moves to spark an acknowledging response from Bert.


“…Can you hear the wind?


She sits in the rocking-chair.


I’ve never seen who it is. Who is it? Who lives down there? I’ll have to ask. I mean, you might as well know, Bert. But whoever it is, it can’t be too cosy.



Pause


I think it’s changed hands since…


…I think they’ve gone now…


…I think someone else has gone in now. I wouldn’t like to live in that basement. Did you ever see the walls? They were running. This is all right for me. Go on, Bert. Have a bit more bread.


She goes to the table and cuts a slice of bread.”


(Pinter, Harold, Plays 1, The Room, page 85-6)


Her activity is construed as behaving because of the lack of history in the play. The reader or viewer gets the impression that this unspoken activity is dutiful compliance on Rose’s part. To the extent that she is trying to dilute the banality of this domesticity by engaging in what could be described as an indirect soliloquy. A soliloquy is where a single character addresses the audience usually with insights as to that character’s thoughts and feelings, often in a manner where it feels like the character’s stream of consciousness is on display. This would perfectly describe our encounter with Rose in the initial phase