Meg flouts the maxim of quantity, considering and questioning the whereabouts of Stanley, ‘Is Stanley up yet? ‘ ‘I don’t know’, ‘I haven’t seen him down yet’, ‘Haven’t you seen him down? ‘ and ‘He must be still asleep. ‘ Again when Meg questions Petey about the lightness or darkness of the morning, ‘but sometimes you go out in the morning and it’s dark’ suggests a sinister and deceitful situation and that Petey may be acting in a dubious manner. Meg doesn’t recognize her own inferences to which Petey responds ambiguously. She takes his responses as his intention to communicate rather than his intention.
Meg is only aware of the interior, shown by her positioning behind the serving hatch and darning, implying her inferior status. Petey flouts the maxim of quality, we are not sure that Petey is telling the truth. When Meg asks ‘What does it say? ‘ Petey replies. ‘Nothing much’, keeping information from her. ‘Haven’t you seen him down? ‘ Petey replies, ‘I’ve only just come in’ avoiding affirmation. Petey is motivated by the two men and needs to motivate Meg and the maxim of quantity is flouted when Meg repeats Petey’s utterance with ‘yes, they must have done. They must have heard this was a very good boarding house.
It is. This is … ‘ These utterances are unlike natural conversation, the dramatic effect emphasises the threat from the ‘two men. ‘ Deixis distances the two men, ‘they’ and ‘them’ from Meg’s interior world, protecting her from outside forces and keeping her distant from too much information. Petey contributes a positive attitude, offering Meg an interactive conversation when he wants to achieve something. Here, Petey becomes the dominant speaker, initiating a change of topic, asking the questions and obeying the maxim of quantity by giving the correct amount of information.
The audience may feel that at the same time, he flouts the maxim of quality as Petey seems to leave out relevant information by being indistinct, as Pinter discusses, it is what he doesn’t say. Towards the end of the segment, the maxim of relation is broken when Meg states, ‘I’m going to wake that boy’ and Petey responds with an unconnected reply and irrelevant information, ‘There’s new show coming to the Palace. ‘ This response is uncooperative and unlike natural conversation, as both speakers are talking about different topics. Meg follows, breaking the maxim of relation once again, ‘On the pier?
‘ Meg had clearly not paid attention to Petey’s given information. Both characters appear to be passive participants however the audience are lead to believe that they turn out to be active participants in a bigger picture. The final /y/ in Petey gives the impact that Petey is a small character in a big story. The stunted conversation and pauses show that Petey is not interested in Meg’s trivial conversation. It emerges that Petey is evasive, distracted and nervous in his attempt to keep the truth from Meg, building a tension between the characters. Meg’s topics of conversation are trivial, having restricted knowledge and is reminiscent.
She is compliant and accommodating in her interior world and doesn’t appear to be a complex character. Meg’s persistent questioning is often interrogatory ‘Who … who? ‘, ‘What’s her name? ‘, ‘What is it? ‘. This also illustrates that she feels threatened by unknown forces from the outside world. Her tag questions demonstrate that she is self doubting and uncertain. On the surface, Meg appears to be desperate for company and conversation, relentlessly asking questions and fussing over Petey.
Meg utters twice as many words as Petey. She has the most (83:60 approx.) and longest utterances and initiates the higher amount of topic changes, allocating turns to Petey by her questions. It is ironic that Meg is portrayed as a character with an inability to comprehend as she is given the larger word count. In the exchange about the girl in the newspaper, Meg repeats questions to which she has already received Petey’s answers.Pinter presents an accurately observed example of linguistic and conversational nonsense. This section has a similarity to naturally occurring conversation; it is informal, colloquial, contains voiced filler, ‘Er and responsive body language (studying the paper).
The utterances are equal and short and create a fast pace, echoing natural conversation, yet the information is again irrelevant nonsense. In normal conversation, Meg would be accepted as the superior speaker yet it is apparent that Petey is the dominant character by not giving Meg his full attention, implying that his newspaper and his thoughts are more important. He controls Meg by his pauses, he makes her wait for his short or negative responses, ‘Not bad’, ‘Nothing much. ‘ His interaction is limited and he has no stage direction for paralanguage. The audience may receive the impression that he knows something Meg does not.
Petey’s schemas; work, the outside world, the information from the newspaper and the beach are all out of reach for Meg. Meg has no extrinsic connections, giving a sense that she has no ambition or interest in the outside world. A taxonomic hierarchy is in place, created by the language choice and content given to the characters; Meg assumes she dominates Stanley, referring to him as a child, ‘I’m going to wake that boy’, amending his name to ‘Stanny’ and use of persuasive language, ‘I’m going to count three’ showing her only power in her imaginary matriarchal position.
Petey dominates Meg. Petey’s silences demonstrate an unwillingness to communicate and the dramatist’s message to the audience. The ‘two men’ who are only referred to and do not speak represent the exterior. What is not said becomes a threat of the unknown. The threat they pose appears to dominate Petey. Even if the speaker remains silent, the audience, or public can eventually find out the real truths; Pinter demonstrates how people are too engrossed in the nihilism of everyday life, unaware of what is happening other levels in their society.
Meg’s relentless questions do not form natural conversation and show a constructed form. Her tag questions suggest her suspicion and disbelief of Petey’s answers. The stage direction, ‘She watches him eat’ also shows her scepticism. All Meg’s efforts are futile. She is never going to find out anything beyond the given information Working on two levels in drama; the conversation topic between the character’s deeper meaning between the playwright and the audience present Grice’s theory of implicature, Meg and Petey break the maxim of manner throughout.
Pinter uses specific expressions, ‘Cleaned up a bit’, ‘Had they heard about us? ‘, ‘This house is on the list’, ‘Can you do it’ ‘This is a straight show’, ‘ They just talk’, and ‘I’m coming to fetch you. ‘ This shows how the audience can move from the expressed meanings to the implied meanings. Similarly, ‘Lady Mary Splatt’, has an expressed meaning with the name, ‘Splatt’, and an implied meaning; Splatt is onomatopoeic and has connotations of something or someone being battered and or squashed.
‘Beach’, ‘pier’, ‘dancing’ and ‘singing’ belong to the semantic field of seaside towns and offer a location for the event. This is Pinter’s way of establishing an idea, for his audience to infer what might happen at a later point in the play. The statement, ‘I’m going to count three! ‘ could also imply that the two men and Petey are interconnected with the play’s as yet unknown outcome. Unlike natural conversation, the drama presents two meanings to one set of dialogue.
Pinter’s style of communicating through ambiguous language broken with silences is often reflective of natural speech yet the premeditated dialogue appears to be designed for a dramatic effect. Pinter’s secondary level of meaning is always intended. Pinter uses a breakdown of normal language responses between the two characters’ dialogue to show their neuroses or desires. The break-down of relationships are exposed by the disjointed and disconnected, often uncooperative, conversational language. Yet the sentences in the play are always completed, signifying a constructed dialogue.
It is obvious that the dialogue is planned, presenting a difference to natural speech, which is generally flooded with interruptions, overlaps and unfinished sentences. Pinter’s tightly controlled dialogue is described in Martin Esslin’s words, ‘every syllable, inflection, the succession of long and short sounds, words, sentences is calculated to nicety. ‘ The analysis demonstrates that the dialogue is clearly constructed for the audience. Pinter’s underlying messages are implied with specific meanings and conveyed to the audience by the repetitive pauses and particularly with what is not said.