What is the relationship between violence and power in Edward Bond's play Saved?
In Saved, Bond presents violence as intimately related to power. As well as being used by the ruling class to maintain their political power, violence is an expression of the powerlessness of those at the bottom of the heap. It is one of the few means available for the poor and dispossessed to give meaning to shattered lives deeply immersed in cultural and material poverty.
"Respectable" violence, the kind that was employed so successfully in the Second World War, is no longer a live option to the post-war generation. Harry gets to the heart of the matter when he tells Len that his problem is that he never got to fight in the war. The suggestion here is that war acts as a controlled outlet for the kind of aggression that would otherwise manifest itself in illicit acts of violence, such as the brutal murder of babies in their prams.
Even in such extreme examples, however, violence cannot deal with the fundamental emptiness at the heart of working-class British life. So long as the repressive structures of society remain in place, proletarian violence will only ever be an expression of impotent rage and will merely act as a convenient excuse for the ruling classes to reinforce their control over those they regard as their social inferiors.
As Bond says in the introduction to the Methuen edition of Early Morning, ‘‘I write about violence as naturally as Jane Austin wrote about manners. Violence shapes and obsesses our society . . . It would be immoral not to write about violence.’’ Violence is the natural result of the depersonalizing aspects of the society in which it takes place, the physical and psychological twisting of the human to fit the work pattern of the industrialized world, the lack of control over their own lives, the crowding together in a sterile environment with no sense of cultural roots.
Being able to ‘‘get away with it’’ is the criteria for behavior. Pete is admired for killing a boy and not being charged. Power is linked with violence for those in power cause violence (wars, bombs) which trickles down and makes violence a necessity and allowed within society. Violence has the underlying role of power. When the baby is killed, the killers have power over the baby, just as those in charge have the power to send the men into war. The themes of violence and power are both caused by society.