Harold Pinter Analysis

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Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to his works for the stage, Harold Pinter published poetry and a few short stories in magazines. Early in his writing career, he contributed poems to Poetry London under the pseudonym Harold Pinta. He wrote a number of radio plays as well as screenplays adapted from his own works and those of other writers. In 1972, Pinter was approached by Joseph Losey, who had directed the films made from Pinter’s screenplays The Servant (1963), Accident (1967), and The Go-Between (1971), with the idea of adapting Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-1931, 1981) for the screen. The task of turning Proust’s monumental seven-volume novel into a workable screenplay was daunting, and although the screenplay was published in 1977, the film was never made. However, Pinter wrote that the time devoted to the Proust project was the best working year of his life. Three collections of Pinter’s screenplays were published in 2000, and a collection of his prose and poetry, Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics, 1948-1998, was published in 1998.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Harold Pinter won many awards, including the Evening Standard Award (1960, for The Caretaker), the Italia Prize (1963, for the television version of The Lover), the British Film Academy Award (1965, for The Pumpkin Eater), and the Commonwealth Award (1981). He had a long list of honorary degrees, and he was elected an Honorary Fellow in the Modern Language Association in 1970. In 2005 Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although Harold Pinter was primarily known as a dramatist, poetry was an essential element in his work. He published in various genres including plays and sketches, screenplays, a novel, and nonfiction, including essays, articles, and public speeches. Some of his best-known plays are The Birthday Party (pr. 1958), The Caretaker (pr., pb. 1960), The Homecoming (pr., pb. 1965), and Betrayal (pr., pb. 1978).


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Harold Pinter received numerous accolades. He was named a Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the French Légion d’Honneur in 2007. His other awards include the David Cohen Prize (1995), the Lawrence Olivier Special Award (1996), Wilfred Owen Poetry Award for his antiwar poetry (2005), the Prague Franz Kafka Prize (2005), and the Europa Theatre Prize (2006). In the latter part of his life, Pinter became politically involved and was noted for his opposition to U.S. foreign policy. His works have been translated into many languages.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Define what critics mean by “Pinteresque.”

How does Harold Pinter use ellipses—the implied pauses in the characters’ lines—to create dramatic tension in his work?

Discuss how Pinter’s work can be read as both “realistic” and “absurdist.”

Define “kitchen sink” elements in Pinter’s work.

Pinter often explores family relationships being threatened by intrusions from outsiders. Find examples of this dramatic technique in his work and discuss how these threats to the family unit are resolved.

Discuss how Pinter’s plays are both humorous and frightening.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Armstrong, Raymond. Kafka and Pinter Shadow-Boxing: The Struggle Between Father and Son. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. Analyzes the affinities between Franz Kafka and Pinter. Focuses on Pinter’s plays The Homecoming, Family Voices, and Moonlight in discussing the playwright’s depiction of father/son relationships.

Billington, Michael. The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. New York: Faber and Faber, 2001. This 432-page update of a 1997 study covers the life of Pinter and provides critical analysis of his major works.

Gale, Steven H., ed. The Films of Harold Pinter. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. A collection of ten essays devoting to his film scripts the same sort of critical attention that Pinter’s plays have garnered.

Gordon, Lois, ed. Harold Pinter: A Casebook . New York: Garland, 1990. Honoring Pinter on his sixtieth birthday, this collection of...

(The entire section is 984 words.)