The Caretaker

The Caretaker Summary and Analysis of Act III

Scene I

It is afternoon, two weeks later. Mick is lying on the floor while Davies paces back and forth, holding his pipe. Davies begins to complain about Aston, saying he has not fixed the cracks, he never talks to him, and he is not allowed to have a knife to cut his bread. He moves on to complaining about the gas stove and the Blacks next door who use the lavatory. He is frustrated by Aston not talking to him and how he "can't get the hang of him" (46).

Mick does not answer his concerns, but starts to ruminate on the changes that could be made to the room. After painting a picture of what would be done, Davies asks who would live here. Mick responds, "My brother and me" (47). Davies asks about himself, but Mick does not reply; instead, he starts to talk about Aston's junk in the room. He suggests Davies talk to Aston about it, as they are friends.

Davies replies that he is not friends with Aston. He prefers Mick because he is "straightforward" (47) and Aston has no feelings. He then complains at length about not having a clock in the room to tell the time. He is also annoyed that Aston keeps waking him up and will not let him sleep. He is also mad because Aston never tells him where he is going and always wears a strange smile on his face. Finally, he starts to turn to Mick and suggest that they cut Aston out and work on this place together. He asks Mick where he lives.

Mick says he has a little place somewhere. A moment later, a door bangs. Mick gets up and leaves. Davies protests, and Aston enters the room. Aston hands him a new pair of shoes, but, ever-critical, Davies says they are not right because they do not have laces. He condescendingly explains why shoes have to have laces to work.

Aston finds a pair of shoes with laces under the bed, but Davies rejects them because they are not the same color as the ones in his hand. He starts to talk about getting down to Sidcup and how he has been offered a good job but needs his papers. After a moment, he says the weather is not good and the shoes are not good.

As he is talking, Aston quietly exits. Davies does not notice for a few minutes, but when he does, he angrily cries out, "Christ! That bastard, he ain't even listening to me!" (50).

Scene II

Aston and Davies are in their respective beds. It is night. Davies is groaning, and Aston shakes him awake. Angry, Davies yells back at him. Aston says he will take some air outside. Davies begins to harangue him, complaining that Aston does not want him to breathe, and it is freezing, and he is tired of Aston bothering him. He tells him to keep his place because Mick has his eye on him. He grows more heated, saying, "They can put them pincers on your head again, man! They can have them on again!" (52). He baits him further, telling Aston he is "up the creek" (52) and treats Davies like an animal.

After this outburst, Aston says quietly, "I...I think it's about time you found somewhere else. I don't think we're hitting it off" (52). Davies says Aston should, and Aston responds that he lives here and Davies does not. Davies says Mick made him caretaker and the job is his.

Aston reaches into his pocket and says he can give Davies some money to get down to Sidcup. Davies says bitterly that Aston should just build his "stinking" (53) shed first. Aston says that Davies is the one who stinks. At this, Davies becomes infuriated and threatens Aston with a knife.

Quietly, Aston says he should get his stuff and go. Davies is flustered and upset, stuttering that Aston does not have the right, and Aston should wait for Mick, and he will be sorry.

Davies exits, muttering his curses. Aston straightens up the room.

Scene III

Davies and Mick are off-stage but their voices can be heard. Davies is complaining and Mick listens politely. The stink issue is particularly obnoxious to Davies, and Mick tells him, "If you stank I'd be the first one to tell you" (54). Davies bemoans the fact that Aston has no sense, unlike Mick.

On the stage now, Mick catches this and asks what he means by that. Davies is confused, then scrambles to explain that Aston has no ideas for the place, unlike him. Mick says that Aston is the one who lives here.

Piqued, Davies says bluntly that Aston should go back where he came from. Mick coolly asks him where that is, and then says, "You get a bit out of your depth sometimes, don't you?" (55). He changes the subject to decoration, and queries Davies about being an interior decorator.

Davies is confused and says he never said he was an interior decorator. Mick persists, and tells Davies he wanted a first-rate interior decorator and Davies said he was one. Indignant, Davies protests, and Mick says that perhaps he was under a false impression.

Mick begins to question Davies about his real name , and asks him why he lied about being an interior decorator. Davies says he never told him that, and it must have been Aston, who is "nutty" (57).

Mick pauses and asks if Davies really said that about his brother, which seems quite "impertinent" (57). To this, Davies responds that Aston said it himself.

Mick turns to him and says he is a strange man. Continuing, he says he is tired of all the trouble Davies brings, and that he is a liar and "You're violent, you're erratic, you're just completely unpredictable...You're a barbarian" (57). He brings up Sidcup and Davies's failed promises to get his papers. Finally, he offers him money to pay him out for his services.

Slowly, Davies says, "All right do do that...if that's what you want" (57). Angrily, Mick yells that it is what he wants, and hurls the Buddha statue against the wall. It shatters. He speaks of his plans and the things he has to worry about; he is trying to expand, he says, and he is always busy and moving. His brother can do what he wants.

Davies ventures to ask about himself. It is silent. Aston enters the room. Both brothers are smiling faintly, but do not speak. Mick leaves the room.

Aston picks up the pieces of the broken statue. Davies says he just came back for his pipe. He talks on for a few more minutes, trying to explain himself and trying to ingratiate himself back with Aston. He apologizes about his complaints of the draught and the beds and his noises. At the end of his speech, he asks Aston if he can still be caretaker. They could even switch beds if it would be easier.

Aston replies that he likes his bed. Davies is a bit annoyed, as this is not what he meant, but he persists in trying to stay there. He even says he will help Aston build his shed.

Aston is unmoved and says he can do it himself. More frantically, Davies pleads again for Aston to let him stay. The reply is again an emphatic 'no', and Davies asks why not. Aston replies evenly, "You make too much noise" (60).

The curtain begins to descend as Davies sputters and moans about where he is to go, and how sorry he was about the shoes and how he needs to get his papers.


One of the things Pinter is lauded for in this play is his ability to depict the reality of life in 1950s London for the lower social classes. Although Pinter preferred an interpretation of his play that focused on the characters themselves, the play offers much historical, social, and political insight, especially in terms of race and the "immigrant problem."

From the very beginning of the play, race and identity are of major concern to the characters, especially Davies, who is consistently criticizing people of other races, and Mick, who tells stories about people he knows, complete with details about where they are from. It is even Aston who asks Davies, "You Welsh?" and "Where were you born then?" (20). Scholar Graham Woodroffe's article on the "political metaphor" in Pinter's play delves into this in detail. He begins by discussing Britain's immigrant problems of the 1950s and early 1960s, noting the influx of immigrants from Britain's former colonies. These immigrants, usually African or Indian, settled in London in high numbers, particularly the East End. In 1959, the year the play was published, there was a multitude of assumptions, rumors, and stereotypes about the new denizens; they were perceived to be unclean and lacking in manners, as well as lazy and uncouth. Davies seems concerned with cleanliness (ironic, as he is the one who smells), and focuses intently on the "Blacks" using the lavatory.

Woodroffe notes that "metaphors suggesting the anxiety about the flow of immigrants into the country also accumulate in the play"; these include the cluttered room and the leaking bucket, both of which are "apt representations of increasing public concern about the unrestricted entry of 'coloured' immigrants into Britain." Davies is a fascinating character to read amid all this, for not only does he give voice to the racist attitudes of his day, but he is also representative of the immigrant and the victim of racial prejudice. He is overly concerned with his rights and his liberty, and resents questioning about his origins. He was invited into the room, as the immigrants were essentially invited into Britain after WWII, but then told he does not fit in and must leave. Woodroffe sums up his point thusly: "Davies disturbs because he embodies the contradictions of racial politics; he is a racist and a defender of civil rights. He is, in Mick's words, 'a bloody imposter'."

By the end of the play, many of the themes Pinter explored in the first two acts are fully manifested. Communication is seemingly impossible for the characters. Davies complains outright about how he cannot talk to Aston, although, interestingly, as scholar Bill Naismith points out, "it is clear whenever Aston has tried to start a conversation it is Davies who fails to respond...Davies is incapable of responding in a friendly or helpful way." Mick ignores Davies's pointed questions and speaks enigmatically, using language to implant a false impression in Davies's head that he is welcome in the room. Mick and Aston, once united in their desire to rid of Davies, do not speak but smile "faintly" (58). Davies's desire to communicate with Aston at the end in order to remain in the room comes to naught.

Davies' ouster from the room reinforces the essential isolation the characters experience in relation to each other and the world itself. Davies loses his opportunity for comfort and companionship (due to his own behavior, of course), and is thrown back out into the world that has no use for him. While Aston and Mick still have each other, it is clear that they too are examples of, as Bernard Dukore writes, "modern man beaten down by the world around him...of man reduced and of man in the process of being reduced to a cipher in the vast social structure." Aston was deemed unfit by society for society, and was thus given a treatment to render him malleable and meek. Mick tries to get ahead, to make a place for himself, but is beset by troubles such as caring for his brother and trying to eke out a living (his smashing of the Buddha indicates his frustration with his situation). By the end of the play the characters are exactly where they started –Davies is friendless and itinerant, Aston still has not built his shed, Mick is still trying to "expand" and "think about the future" (58). It is clear that, ultimately, not much happened in the play, and that is Pinter's point. Life rarely adheres to the neat structure traditional drama utilized; it is oppressive, banal, absurd, and seemingly pointless.