What does the dialogue in The Caretaker reveal about attitudes towards women, and what is the impact of having no women onstage?

Quick answer:

The characters in The Caretaker rarely mention women, but mothers come up several times. Aston once mentions an unnamed female stranger with whom he had a casual encounter. He tells Davies that his mother subjected him to a medical procedure that he did not want. Mick and Davies have an argument about Davies sleeping in Mick's mother's bed. The overall implication is that that all three inhabit a male-oriented social world to which women are peripheral.

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All three characters in The Caretaker are male. They are two young adult brothers and an older man who is apparently homeless. Women are rarely mentioned in their dialogue. Aston, one of the brothers, occasionally mentions a woman but these lines seem to be random occurrences within his meandering thoughts. It is also impossible to determine if he is telling the truth. Overall, Harold Pinter’s play gives the impression that the men inhabit a masculine world in which women are marginal. Aston’s resentment of his mother may be a factor in his efforts to exclude women from his life.

In the midst of telling Davies about a saw he wants to buy, Aston mentions having a conversation with a female stranger in a café. He states that the woman expressed interest in looking at his body. Davies, initially startled, claims that women have often made the same comments to him. The subject of women is then dropped. While no background is given as to why Aston would mention women, it may be that he is trying to reassure Davies—a guest in his home—that he is straight.

Mick occasionally mentions women within long, rambling descriptions of two men that he claims resemble Davies. One man is his uncle, who “had an eye for the girls.” The other is “a bloke” he once knew along with the man’s “old mum.”

This mention of another man’s mother paves the way for the conversation that Mick and Davies have about Mick’s mother after he objects to Davies sleeping in her bed. When Davies makes a joke, Mick takes offense and calls Davies disrespectful and “an old rogue.”

Mick and Aston’s mother recurs as a subject when Aston speaks at length about his earlier mental illness. While in the hospital, he was still a minor and expected his mother to prevent the doctors from “do[ing] something to his brain.” Instead, she gave permission. After the painful treatment, when he was released, he lived with her and Mick. This is the last mention of their mother, and the reader never learns if she is still alive—or if Aston’s story was true.

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