The Caretaker Summary
by Harold Pinter

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Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Mick and his brother Aston live alone together in a West London house until one night Aston brings home Davies, who just left his job as a kitchen helper at a restaurant. The old man proves to be a violent, selfish bigot, uncharitable himself but quick to exploit the kindness of others. He tells Aston that “Blacks, Greeks, Poles” are “treating him like dirt” and that “nobody’s got more rights than I have.” He also vows to get revenge on another employee at the restaurant. In contrast to Davies’ vulgar, abrasive, vengeful attitude, Aston’s is quiet, gentle, and accommodating. In addition to offering Davies a bed for the night, he tries to give him a comfortable pair of shoes. Davies, ungrateful, refuses the shoes, claiming they do not fit. When Aston offers him money, however, Davies accepts it, insisting that he has to “get down to Sidcup,” where he can get his papers and resume his true identity as Mac Davies, instead of living as he was under the assumed name of Bernard Jenkins.

Davies stays the night, and in the morning Aston complains that Davies made noises. When Aston suggests that perhaps Davies was dreaming, Davies counters by saying that he never dreams and becomes angry when Aston says the “jabbering” kept him from sleeping. Nevertheless, Aston suggests that Davies stay on longer if he wants and gives him a key to the room. Before going out to shop for a jigsaw, Aston recalls an encounter he had recently with a woman he met in a café, who offered “to have a look” at his body. Davies asks him for money, but Aston reminds him that he gave him some money the previous night.

Left alone, Davies begins to rummage through items scattered around the room and is surprised by Mick, who grabs him in a hammerlock and throws him on the floor, asking “What’s the game?” and demanding to know Davies’ real name. Davies lies, saying his name is Jenkins, and, as if to punish him for lying, Mick aggressively interrogates Davies, undercutting his confidence, confusing the old man, critiquing his motives, and questioning his racism, ethnocentrism, suspicions, and arrogance. Mick finally accuses Davies of being “a born fibber” and teases him by not giving him his trousers. He is interrupted, however, by Aston returning with a valise—Davies claimed he left his at the restaurant the previous night. When Aston hands Davies the bag, however, Mick grabs it and continues teasing Davies.

Once Mick finally gives Davies the bag, the old man is so startled and frightened that he staggers back and drops it. Mick then leaves Aston alone with Davies, who, shaken and angry, calls Mick “a real joker.” He also complains that the bag Aston brought him is not his, and though the bag contains some clothes Aston bought him, Davies is indignant, rejecting the gear—except for a smoking jacket which he puts on, claiming that it is not “a bad piece of cloth.”

When Aston suggests the old man can become the caretaker around the house, Davies becames evasive, reciting a list of excuses. Later, Davies returns to the room alone in the dark. Frightened upon discovering that the lights are not working and thinking that he hears an intruder, he pulls a knife, but the intruder turns out to be Mick, who chases Davies around the room with a vacuum cleaner. After sparring mentally with Davies, Mick pretends to befriend him, offering him a sandwich. Once he gains Davies’ trust, however, Mick again sets a trap for him. Suggesting that his brother is odd and lazy, Mick gets Davies to join in the criticism of Aston, calling him a “funny bloke.” Mick then demands that Davies clarify his statement, confusing the...

(The entire section is 960 words.)