How does Rumsey differ from Bates in Harold Pinter's play Silence?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Rumsey is older and richer than Bates. He is a farmer, while Bates is a farmhand. Contrary to Rumsey who remains in the countryside, Bates moves to the city and as the play develops he lives in a noisy rooming house. Rumsey encourages Ellen to choose Bates over him as she should have the younger man. Yet, after being together for some time (and maybe even getting married), Ellen and Bates separated. In psychoanalytic interpretations of the play, Rumsey desires Ellen as a mother figure and, because of this, his sexuality is blocked by Oedipal guilt with the consequence of also blocking Ellen's sexuality. With Rumsey, Ellen can remain a child and her life is not endangered by excessive passion. This may be a reason why she prefers the older man over Bates, who, while a famhand, is also associated wit the town and the dirt, chaos and gritty sensuality of urban space. His character's entrance on, and exit from, the stage are framed by his recollection of the time he took Ellen to the city and "undressed her, placed my hand". Bates's sexuality is explicitly expressed in the play and he does not idealize Ellen as Rumsey does.

Another difference between the two stems from the fact that while Rumsey chose to be left by Ellen, it was Ellen who chose to leave Bates. Therefore, he is the most alienated and desperate of the three and feels trapped by his solitude. Thus, while Rumsey seeks the silence that come to surround his existence, Bates experiences the silence around him uncomfortably and becomes almost louder as it is contrasted with the noise of the rooming house.

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