How do the dialogues and interactions between Ben and Gus, their pauses, silences, and their actions and attitudes as individuals contribute to the characterization of The Dumb Waiter as both an absurdist play and a comedy of menace?
The primary elements of absurdism in Harold Pinter's play relate to the characters being trapped in an uncomfortable situation and environment and in their receiving mysterious or irrelevant messages with requests they cannot fulfill. The play may be compared to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
The dialogue—into which Pinter has inserted many pauses—contributes to the absurdity of their situation by emphasizing their powerlessness. Ironically, the men earn money as killers, but in this situation, that activity does not empower them. The pauses help emphasize the constant delays. They must wait.
In addition, their conversation often seems instead like two parallel sets of monologues, as their remarks are often tangential and do not advance a plot line.
The menacing aspects derive from the uncertainty of the plot developments and their stated attitudes toward the situation. They question the communications from the dumbwaiter or under the door. Both in their conversation and in the news items Ben reads, death is a constant subject. As they repeatedly discuss their possible target, the audience also wonders if someone will die during the play, and if so, who.
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