28 Pages

Time for Change in No Man's Land

No Man's Land has received more than its fair share of the adverse criticism directed at Pinter's plays. Like many of the others this one, too, has been attacked for being puzzling and obscure, but No Man's Land has proved to be a play more difficult than most to defend against the usual criticisms. Indeed, a series of comments from otherwise sympathetic critics suggests that the play lacks a coherent structure, that the characters are out of harmony with the plot, that the ending is puzzlingly inconclusive, that the treatment of time oscillates oddly between a concern for fixity and a concern for flux, and that character interaction gives the impression of dramatic abstraction rather than emotional engagement. Various attempts to accommodate the play's structural peculiarities have led to conclusions that it is about old age, death, stasis, a waste land, modem alienation, unconstrained fantasy, time, memory, nihilism, absence, and a variety of other things whose relevance seems indisputable but whose centrality is less so. Their local importance is easier to establish than either their various relationships or their collective significance. Indeed, there is a serious question to be asked about the possibility of establishing a coherent theme for the play until a better understanding of its structure is achieved.