A Freudian Reading of Harold Pinter's Early Plays: Neurotic Characters in The Room, The Birthday Party, and The Caretaker
Gümüşlü, Defne Arya
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As a post-war dramatist, Harold Pinter (1930-2008) reflects the effects of trauma and suffering of the period following the Second World War through his enigmatic early plays by presenting characters who seemingly fall victim to neurosis. To comprehend the psychology of Pinter’s characters and demystify his plays, Sigmund Freud’s views on neurosis are drawn onto in this study. In light of Freud’s perspectives on neurosis, this thesis aims to illustrate that Pinter’s characters in The Room (1957), The Birthday Party (1957), and The Caretaker (1959) suffer from apprehension, constant fear, aggressive behaviour, solitude, catatonia, obsessions, and paranoia, in other words, neurotic disturbance primarily due to their unfulfilled unconscious desires, that is the unresolved Oedipal urge and the death drive, as well as society’s restrictive forces on individuals; thus, the characters in the abovementioned plays are unable to harmonise with their environment. All of the three plays which are selected for this thesis encompass the Freudian elements at their cores. The introduction part gives information about Freudian psychoanalysis and focalises on the period following the Second World War and its traumatic effect on Pinter. Then, the first chapter delves into the impact of the repressed Oedipal and death desires on individuals in The Room. The second chapter, which is about The Birthday Party, analyses castration anxiety through the punishment of a man by the father figures. Lastly, the third chapter examines the desire to get rid of the father figure, in other words, parricide, in The Caretaker. Therefore, this thesis concludes that the individuals in Pinter's early plays fall into the grip of neurosis due to unsatisfied Oedipal and death urges as well as discontent caused by the suffocating effect of social norms. To encapsulate, with the help of the Freudian psychoanalytical perspective, the chaotic unconscious world of the characters is excavated, and it is clarified that they are caught in the vortex of menace, which creeps both into the external world and the depths of their unconscious.