What kind of 'Society' is Harold Pinter portraying in "Party Time"?
There are two societies portrayed in Harold Pinter’s short screenplay “Party Time” - What kind of 'Society' is Harold Pinter portraying in "Party Time"? introduction. The outside world is full of turmoil whereas the world through the front door is full of ignorance and insensitivity. The outside world is described perfectly by Dame Melissa on her entrance at the latter part of scene 1. “What on earth is going out there? Its like the Black Death,” and then later, “The town’s dead. ” She uses the words ‘Black Death’, which is a terribly significant description.
She uses this simile describing the deserted streets but then goes on to say ” except for some soldiers. It appears that the only people outside are soldiers patrolling the streets. We are told that at the beginning of the play helicopter noises are heard in the background. Harold Pinter, throughout the play includes many hints towards the society that is being portrayed outside, but it is not certain. From all this we can deduce that there is probably some sort or military/political crisis developing outside, where a curfew has probably been initiated to keep order at bay. We may be able to conclude this when Melissa explains that she was stopped at a roadblock.
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“My diver had to stop at a…. hat do you call it?… Roadblock. ” Melissa’s entrance tells us a great deal about the events outside. Social hierarchy is the main focus in this play as throughout it many people are portrayed from different places in the social hierarchy. It appears that at the top of the social hierarchy at the party is Dame Melissa. She is the only person that has a title before her name and there are many instances when an inclination to her wealth is shown. The main point where we see this is at the end of scene 8 where she replies to Gavin’s question about the hawk with, “… he way it flew over my valley. It made me cry. ” She uses a possessive pronoun before ‘valley’ that may imply that she actually owns some sort of valley, maybe with her a private estate. She is the most aristocratic and upper class character in the play. Another character that appears to be fairly high up the social ranks is Gavin, the host of the party.
Sexism is also revealed to be prominent in this society. Gavin remarks on Terry’s relationship with Dusty saying, “So odd, the number of men who can’t control their wives. ” Terry retorts to this by saying, “What are you saying to me? . Gavin calmly ignores Terry and initiates a new conversation with Melissa; “I went for a walk in the woods the other day. ” This shows the confidence of Gavin’s character and his trivial views on society in general. There are also some references to Douglas’ wealth when he is talking to Fred, Liz and Charlotte about the forthcoming summer. “If you free this summer do come to our island. We take and island for the summer. Do come. ” He also uses a possessive pronoun before island which implies that it he owns the island. ” He then goes on to say, “There’s more or less nobody on it.
Just a few local people who do us proud. ” By saying, “who do us” proud, this implies that the people of the island act as his servants. He then refers to God when he describing the island and saying, “you know that God intend, you know what paradise is. ” This is extremely ironic that he should refer to God in such a way, associating him with peace, tranquillity and love, when the society that is portrayed is such a ‘Godless’ and trivial one. It is obvious that Terry is a social climber with great aspirations. He greatly wants to impress Gavin but often fails to say the right thing.
It is obvious that he is not from the most privileged of backgrounds as the speech and intonation he uses is fairly informal, and the vocabulary he chooses to employ is sometimes unnecessary and irrelevant. Terry’s behaviour is somewhat questionable throughout the whole duration of the play. He is extremely patronizing to his wife Dusty, and often mocks her to his advantage. He is verbally violent and bullies her. It does not seem that their relationship is that of a strong one, but Dusty seems to metaphorically bow down at him.
We can see that she is fond of her husband, and is torn between him and Jimmy. Their relationship with each other again reveals that the society that they are in is fairly sexist. It appears that everyone is only concerned with themselves and each has a shallow, superficial sense of moral values. Everyone is thick-skinned, self centred and only concerned with themselves. Nobody dwells on the any of the matters concerning the outside, and if the subject should arise, it is quickly seen off. We can see this first just after Melissa has entered and described streets.
Gavin appears to be not concerned with this at all and calmly says, ” Oh there’s just been a little… you know… “. It seems that everyone is ‘turning their backs’ in the metaphorical sense on the ‘outside’ world, except for Dusty. She is the only character apart from Jimmy, who appears to be affected by the goings-on outside and shows a sensitive side in a completely uncaring society. We first see this when she enters. “Did you hear what’s happened to Jimmy? What’s happened to Jimmy? ” I believe it is only her and Jimmy who are capable of being emotionally moved.
Every other character is too caught up with their own personal but yet trivial matters to care bout anyone or anything else. An example of this would be during scene 3 with Liz and Charlotte where great triviality of human nature is shown in this scene. Fidelity is not regarded as an important part of relationships between a man and a woman. Sexual innuendos, which illustrate the triviality they choose to employ over important matters such as sexual relationships can be seem. An example of this can be seen in scene 10. Liz is surprised that Charlotte and Fred have met before and says, “You’ve met before? To which Charlotte replies, “Oh yes. We’ve met. He gave me a leg up in life. ” I feel this is a reference to previous sexual activities between the two characters.
Most people in this society believe they are in an ‘exclusive social world’ with high intolerance with anyone who does not conform within this society or does not meet their demands. An example of this would be the conversation between Sam, Harlow and Smith where Sam says, “I met a man at a party the other day-I couldn’t believe it-He was talking the most absolute bloody crap-his ideas about the world that kind of thing”.
He then goes on to say, “he was a complete and utter and total aresholes-a musician or something-“. As soon as he says this, Smith interrupts with – “Stoddart? “. He immediately knows whom Sam is describing. Sam describes Stoddart as a musician. Musicians are often thought of as highly expressive people with strong views of life in general, and obviously this man’s views on life did not conform to Sam’s expectations. The word ‘musician’ is a representative meaning for people with creative minds and Pinter is trying to portray that their society shows contempt to people with creative minds.
It appears that the society is a highly oppressive and prejudisdic and people who do not agree with its totalitarian views are thought of as infections. Sam replies to Smith by saying, “That’s it. Now, you see, theses kind of people, they’re an infection. ” Smith then says, “Don’t worry about Stoddart. We’ve seen him off. ” To which Harlow adds, “We’ve had him for breakfast,” which implies that they have removed and eliminated Stoddart. They seem to find this as a source of humour as the pair starts to laugh after this.
They are a sinister and cunning pair who seem to always appear together in the play and could describe them as a double act. In scene 1 they are together, but it appears as if they are eavesdropping into the conversation between Gavin and Terry. They listen to the conversation with great detail, and act like spies taking in all the information that arises. The society these two believe themselves to be in is that of a very formal and orderly one. Anyone who breaks this fashion will be deemed a traitor and will be removed in any way seemed suitable.
Pinter uses ‘repetition’ a lot in the play but for two different reasons. One reason may be that he uses it to suggest a lack of intelligence or insecurity of a character. We can see this in Liz when she says, “I think this is such a gorgeous party. Don’t you? I mean I think it’s such a gorgeous party. Don’t you? ” The repetition she uses her suggests she doesn’t have the brightest of minds that in turn may lead her to feel insecure of herself. She later says. “Is it silly to say I feel proud? I mean o be part of a society of beautifully dressed people? Oh I don’t know, elegance, style, grace, taste… This again illustrates the superficiality of the characters in the play and also the superficiality of their society in general. Arrogance is also another key point in this society.
It appears that most characters that conform to the society all have a great sense of self-confidence and arrogance. The society has developed in such a way that is has caused ruin innocent people’s lives. Jimmy, who is a representative of the outside world, has been completely destroyed as a character. We can assume this, as it appears he doesn’t even know his own name or believe he has a name. ” I had a name. It was Jimmy.
People called me Jimmy. That was my name. ” Jimmy has been greatly affected by this oppressive society and has become enslaved by the totalitarian views. ‘Peace’, it seems to members of this society is to have no enemies or confronters. The society that is portrayed is demeaning, corrupt and insensitive. People with real feelings and emotions have their characters destroyed and become formed into objects the society controls. Overall, it seems Harold Pinter is concerned about the complacency our human nature can suffer and how modern day society has conditioned us into believing in certain stereotypical views.