The Dumb Waiter Study Guide

The Dumb Waiter

The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter

The Dumb Waiter is a play by Harold Pinter that employs genre cliches and absurdism to address themes of individualism, freedom and power. Gus and Ben are two hit-men waiting for an assignment in a dingy basement. Food orders start coming to them through a dumb waiter and ince the room is not a kitchen, they tell the people above that they have no food. When Gus leaves momentarily, Ben is told via the dumb waiter that his target is the person who next enters the room: Gus.

Two hit-men, Ben and Gus, are waiting in a basement room for their assignment. As the play begins, Ben, the senior member of the team, is reading a newspaper, and Gus, the junior member, is tying his shoes. Gus asks Ben many questions as he gets ready for their job and tries to make tea. They argue over the semantics of "light the kettle" and "put on the kettle". Ben continues reading his paper for most of the time, occasionally reading excerpts of it to Gus. Ben gets increasingly animated, and Gus's questions become more pointed, at times nearly nonsensical.

In the back of the room is a dumbwaiter, which delivers occasional food orders. This is mysterious and both characters seem to be puzzled why these orders keep coming. At one point they send up some snack food that Gus had brought along. Ben has to explain to the people above via the dumbwaiter's "speaking tube" that there is no food. This whole sequence is rather odd because the basement is clearly not outfitted for fulfilment of the orders.

Gus leaves the room to get a drink of water in the bathroom, and the dumbwaiter's speaking tube whistles (a sign that there is a person on the other end who wishes to communicate). Ben listens carefully—we gather from his replies that their victim has arrived and is on his way to the room. Ben shouts for Gus, who is still out of the room. The door that the target is supposed to enter from flies open, Ben rounds on it with his gun, and Gus enters, stripped of his jacket, waistcoat, tie and gun. There is a long silence as the two stare at each other before the curtain comes down (the implication is that Gus is the person that Ben has been employed to kill).

You'll need to sign up to view the entire study guide.

Sign Up Now, It's FREE
Source: Wikipedia, released under the Creative Commons Attributions/Share-Alike License