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JC2 Prelim exam. PINTER ESSAY QUESTION. 2012 JC2 Prelim exam: pinter. Qn : ‘Pinter presents life and its interactions as a game one has to play.’ How far do you find this a helpful comment in your reading of the play ? Key Words: ‘life and its interactions’

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jc2 prelim exam

JC2 Prelim exam


2012 jc2 prelim exam pinter
2012 JC2 Prelim exam: pinter

Qn: ‘Pinter presents life and its interactions as a game one has to play.’ How far do you find this a helpful comment in your reading of the play?

Key Words:

‘life and its interactions’

– actions and dialogue/conversations

‘has to’ – unavoidable / inevitable / force

‘game’ – one of the central motifs

‘how far ….helpful…’ – in our understanding of the play’s central themes

play up play up and play the game goldberg p77
‘Play up, play up and play the game’ Goldberg p77
  • Life as an absurd Game
  • we play to keep busy, as an empty entertainment, cope with meaninglessness.
  • TO Avoid coming to terms with reality & the truth of the emptiness of their existence and identity

We follow House Rules : “Play up, play up, and play the game.” GB pg 77

GB plays ‘the game’ - ‘follows the line’ but is still a hollow man unable to articulate his beliefs. ‘Because I believe that the world……..’

The rules of the game are articulated as empty commandments / cliches: ‘Honour thy father and mother’ , ‘learn by heart’ etc… Refer to pg77-78


Stanley is the rebel who breaks the rules of the ‘game’ – does not conform.

At the end, he is forced to ‘play’ ; given a ‘new identity’ that will reinforce his participation in the game.

The word ‘game’ gives a sense of levity or an appearance of ‘fun’ to what is essentially brutal and senseless control by the establishment / the govt / the organisation.

The ‘Game’ is a motif used to reflect the absurdity of life and its meaninglessness.

And the insidious control of the establishment.

competitive games power games
  • Competitive Games =>Strategic battle for positions in the struggle for dominance
  • Eg Meg and Petey – conversation at the breakfast table – struggle for dominance. Meg demanding attention and affirmation from Petey and later from Stanley. GB and MC – GB shows his dominance over MC in their conversation: he is the one who gives the instructions
  • Power-play is portrayed as an instinctual drive. Eg Meg’s attempted manipulation of Petey is instinctual rather than deliberate.
  • Characters are embodiments of this drive. Given the opportunity – any one could become the oppressor.
games to hide conceal

Games to conceal/hide =>Cards are played very close to characters’ chests, so the reader/spectator is never in a position to understand what is really going on.

Language / conversation is used to hide the self rather than to reveal the self. eg GB’s language and use of empty cliches that hide more than they reveal – we never really know what he is thinking. We recognise his hypocrisy and ‘evil’ but the true self remains hidden; his past; his history and family too. Other characters too

EgPetey and chess-playing => is he deeper, more complex than what he projects? Chess is a game of mental strategy.

language games
Language Games

Language – in the play - is portrayed as a kind of game. Like games, language has its own rules and ‘moves’.

Speech acts like Threats/Flatteries are simply ‘moves’ a player makes. The Words convey no meaning but merely intention eg the Interrogation scene – the words in each qn convey little to no meaning but the intention is clear – to unsettle and ‘brainwash’ Stanley into losing his sense of self.

Most of the time, Characters distance themselves through ‘simulating’ speech.

language games1
Language Games

From critic Roger Caillois

Games of conversation - as an evasion of hostility eg Stanley ‘simulates’ conversation – trying to strike up a conversation with McCann & GB initially to evade hostility.

Games of politeness - to smile away the barbarity of their lives eg Goldberg’s fake ‘friendliness’ – hides the brutality of his life; helps him to cope with it.


Games of concern - to avoid the awareness of one’s self-seeking interest egMeg ‘you stay with your old Meg’. [is it her own interests that drive her concern or genuine concern for Stanny?]

Games of love - as a defense against a hatred of indifference. Eg Meg’s ‘love’ for Stanley – a defense against her fear of indifference from the people around her : ‘He’s lived here for a while now and he’s my Stanny now’ – claims of a loving relationship.

Games of sincerity - to dispel the feeling that the word has no meaning whatever.

Goldberg talks about the meaning of words like ‘respect’ as if they still have meaning and value in the world today.


Critic Eric Berne: People play games to avoid the horrors of true intimacy.

  • Language is like playing hide and seek – it’s a ritualistic and habitual interaction/game.
  • Meg and Petey play the game of surrogate parents to child Stanley => Overtones of the parent-child relationship, without true intimacy.
  • Eg Meg and Petey’s breakfast rituals – verbal ritual played to avoid true intimacy.

Imitative or ritualistic games (mimicry)=> Characters take on Roles.

  • Pinter’s characters favour such games as they allow characters to step outside the limitations of their lives by merging into the surroundings.
  • EgStanley: Pretend manager;
  • GB: Ritualistic youth
mind games of delusion
Mind Games [of delusion]
  • Mind games [of delusion]: - Eg Lives composed of platitudes and stale clichés - “I was the belle of the ball.” – Meg; Stanley’s identity as concert pianist
  • Actual games: eg Blind Man’s Buff => their symbolic sig in suggesting – arbitrary capture and hunting of individuals, ‘blind man’ as victim - suggesting powerlessness; etc…
  • Constant reference to playing games eg childhood games Hide and Seek, played piggy-back, pop goes the weasel and cricket [‘who watered the wicket…?’].

=>creates the impression of life as an absurd game.


Games have Sinister undertones =>

  • Eg 1 GB: You hurt me, Webber. You’re playing a dirty game. (Act 2)
  • Eg 2. GB’s games with Lulu - In Act 3 - Lulu who has been ‘played with’; she is a Victim of GB’s games. She loses and leaves [evades the game].