The Price of Civilization Under Surveillance in Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter and The Hothouse

Chuen-shin Tai


In the light of Harold Pinter’s plays, civilization serves as the main source of man’s suffering as each individual lives among the stresses and criteria of demands in his cultural tradition, conventional law as well as social norms. As a matter of fact, Pinter’s earliest plays The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter, and The Hothouse describe the vital and furious stand against malign authority that victimizes characters labeled deviants due to their failure to adhere to norms. This paper aims to study the conflict between individual privacy and modern society. As Sigmund Freud states, men are controlled by the organizations of society and subjected to the most rigorous surveillance at all times. Pinter presents unequivocally how civilization is actually responsible for our misery and restricts us from pursuing pleasures or our own unalienable rights. In all, Pinter exposes the urgent and compelling appeal to contemplate the overwhelming price people pay for a better society, which is reflected in the loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


civilization, individuality, power, surveillance, violence

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