Mountain Language by Harold Pinter

Start Your Free Trial

Download Mountain Language Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

(Drama for Students)

Act I: Prison Wall
The play opens with a line of women standing up against a prison wall. An elderly woman cradles her hand while a young woman stands with her arm around her. A sergeant and an officer enter. The sergeant points to the young woman and asks her her name. The young woman replies that they have given their names. The two repeat this dialogue until the officer tells the sergeant to ‘‘stop this s——.’’

The officer then turns to the young woman and asks her if she has any complaints. The young woman responds that the older woman has been bitten. When the officer asks the elderly woman who bit her, she slowly raises her hand but remains silent. The young woman tells him that a Doberman pinscher bit her. Again he asks the elderly woman who bit her hand, as if he had never heard the young woman’s reply. The elderly woman stares at him and remains silent. The younger woman, redefining her response, tells him ‘‘a big dog.’’ When the officer asks the dog’s name, he is met with silence, which agitates him to the point that he insists ‘‘every dog has a name’’ given by its parents. He informs them that before dogs bite, they state their name. He then tells the young woman that if the dog bit the elderly woman without stating his name, he will have the dog shot. When he is met again with silence, he barks, ‘‘silence and attention.’’

The officer then calls the sergeant over and asks him to take any complaints. When the sergeant again asks for complaints, the young woman tells him that they have been standing all day in the snow, while the guards have taunted them with the dogs, one of which bit the woman. The officer again asks the name of the dog. The young woman looks at him and answers, ‘‘I don’t know his name.’’

The sergeant then abruptly changes the subject, informing the women, ‘‘your husbands, your sons, your fathers, these men you have been waiting to see, are s——houses’’ and ‘‘enemies of the State.’’ The officer steps forward and identifies the women as ‘‘mountain people’’ and tells them that since their language is forbidden, it should be considered ‘‘dead.’’ They are only allowed to speak ‘‘the language of the capital.’’ He warns that they will be ‘‘badly punished’’ if they try to speak the mountain language. He reiterates that this is the law and that their language is dead, and ends by asking whether there are any questions. When the young woman responds that she does not speak mountain language, the sergeant puts his hand on her ‘‘bottom’’ and asks, ‘‘What language do you speak with your a——?’’ When the officer warns the sergeant to remember that the women have committed no crime, the sergeant asks, ‘‘but you’re not saying they’re without sin?’’ The officer admits that was not his point, and the sergeant concludes the young woman is full of sin, that ‘‘she bounces with it.’’

The young woman then identifies herself by name and tells them she has come to see her husband, which she claims is her right. When she presents her papers, the officer notes that she and her husband do not come from the mountains, and realizes that he has been put ‘‘in the wrong batch.’’ The sergeant concludes, ‘‘she looks like a f—— intellectual to me.’’

Act II: Visitor’s Room
The scene opens with the elderly woman sitting next to a prisoner. When she speaks to him in a rural accent, the guard jabs her with a stick, insisting that the language is forbidden. The prisoner tries to explain to the guard that the woman doesn’t know the language of the capital but is met with silence. When the elderly woman tells the prisoner that she has apples, the guard again jabs her and shouts that her language is forbidden. The prisoner admits that the woman does not know what the guard is saying. The guard refuses to accept responsibility and concludes, ‘‘you’re all a pile of s——.’’ When...

(The entire section is 1,103 words.)