Entrapment in Relationships in August Strindberg's the Father and Harold Pinter's the Collection

By Sasani, Samira; Ghasemi, Parvin | K@ta, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Entrapment in Relationships in August Strindberg's the Father and Harold Pinter's the Collection


Sasani, Samira, Ghasemi, Parvin, K@ta


The way out is via the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?

Confucius (qouted in Laing, 1961, p. xii)

INTRODUCTION

August Strindbeig's influence on modem drama is indisputable. Many critics have studied his influence on modem drama especially from a technical point of view. Strindberg introduced symbolist and expres- sionistic techniques that were influential for the later existentialist plays by Jean-Paul Sartre, the absurdist plays by Maeterlinck or Beckett, or the realist/ absurdist plays by Pinter.

Esslin (1964) believes that in comparison to the absurdist playwrights, Pinter is looking for "a higher degree of realism in the theatre" (p. 206). Pinter scholars fiequentiy have compared Pinter with Beckett but not that much work has been done on the influence of Strindberg on Pinter. Truly, Strindberg has influenced modem dramatists, some of them have acknowledged their indebtedness to Strindberg like Eugene O'Neill, and some, like Harold Pinter, have not. Roken (2009) argues that some dramatists "have drawn more from Strindbeig than from any other playwright (like Eugene ONeill and Lars Norén); those who have more or less unconsciously integrated something from his work or technique (like Harold Pinter); and those who have, in one way or another, tried to avoid Strindberg's influence (like jean-Paul Sartre, Heiner Müller, and Tom Stoppard)" (p. 164). Investigating Pinter's different works, we found that Pinter has never acknowledged his indebtedness to Strindberg, though he got influence from him consciously or unconsciously. Actually, Harold Bloom (2011), in his influential book called The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a way of life, stipulates: "Influence anxiety, in literature, need not be an affect in the writer who arrives late in a tradition. It always is an anxiety achieved in a literary work, whether or not its author ever felt it. (p. 6) In his view, influence stalks us all as influenza and we can suffer an anguish of contamination whether we are partakers of influence or victims of influenza (p. 12). However in Anatomy of Influence, he discusses about Shakespeare's plays and considers Shakespeare as the source of influence for all poets and generally speaking for all people. Pinter has never acknow- ledged his debt to Strindberg but his plays are very much like Strindberg's family plays in which the characters are entrapped in their relationships. This paper tries to investigate this shared concept through the light of communication theory of Watzlawick and Laing.

Pinter, very much like Strindberg, delineates different forms of entrapment in relationships. Like Strindberg, he shows characters who are entrapped in their relationships and the more they try, the less they can clarify the situation. In both Strindberg and Pinter's plays, the characters are nice when they are considered on their own but they change to devils when they are put in each other's company and they are truly unable to step out of the situation they are engulfed in. This very characteristic of Strindberg and later on Pinter's characters, entrapment in relation- ships, is one of the main issues anti-psychiatrists and communication theorists are focusing on and discussing about.

METHOD

In communication theory of Watzlawick and Laing, people are studied in relation with other people and not in solitude. Communication theory posits a systematic view of interaction; it investigates how people get entrapped in their relationships and how they are unable to step out of it. So their definition of madness, for instance, is different from psychiatrists. For them, madness is created by the character imprisoned by the mies of his own interaction or his wrong perception of others in his relationships. For the communication theorists Schizophrenia, to give another example, is a social phenomenon. Laing (1967), the anti-psychiatrist, argues:

In using the term schizophrenia, I am not referring to any condition that I suppose to be mental rather than physical, or to an illness, like pneumonia, but to a label that some people pin on other people under certain social circums- tances (italics mine, p. …

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