Desire (Old Times)

I finished one of the seven books I’m planning to read over my summer vacation. It was a play by Harold Pinter called Old Times. I’m generally more fond of novels however I decided to read something different for a change. It was a two act play – quite short – with only three characters and quite an unusual storyline.

A man and his wife are visited by an old friend. She was the wife’s former roommate whom she hadn’t seen in twenty years. In the opening scene the husband (Deeley) asks his wife (Kate) about her friend (Anna), she gives him short and vague answers without the slightest bit of emotion in her voice. During the first act and the first part of the second act Kate remains almost completely silent, while Deeley and Anna converse with one another. A tension starts to build up between the two parties as they both desire the affection of Kate. They both start talking to one another about her personality and her habits as if she is not
with them in the room.

As their conversation escalates Deeley realizes that they had met twenty years before and got intimate. Anna denies that claim for a long time until she is able to use it in her favor towards the end of the play. Kate is no longer silent, in the second act, where she tells her friend that she remembers her being dead in their room with a dirty face while she, Kate, was with a man. A man whose face she throws dirt at when he tries to approach her. It closes with Kate on one divan with Deeley resting his head on her lap while Anna lies on the other divan (backless sofa with pillows on the wall).

After reading the analysis of the play (because I honestly had nothing better to do) I came up with my own interpretation. While some say that it is all Deeley’s dream and that the two women are fictional since he is a filmmaker and one of them sometimes seems not to exist even though she is in the room. Others say it is Kate’s imagination, her own fantasy that she has after killing both Anna and Deeley; a fantasy where they both love her and not each other. Or that Kate and Anna are two sides of the same person; Kate being the cold emotionless side while Anna is the passionate one. I find this last one plausible however I have my own theory:

That none of the characters are fantasies for starters but that after finding out about Anna and Deeley’s encounter Kate considered Anna to be dead to her. The dirt on Anna’s face represents how Kate felt about their act. As for the visit itself I believe it was Anna’s way to reach out to Kate. The final scene portrays the lack of passion between Kate and Deeley by placing Deeley’s head on her lap he is seen as her son rather than her husband which makes her a figure of authority. Anna on the other hand is shunned; therefore she lies on the opposite side of the couple, because she represents the gap between them.

I realize I wrote a mini literature paper just here but the play touched upon something that I thought I should share with all of you, a universal theme: desire. How such a feeling when given to the wrong person can destroy a person and how the lack of it can destroy a relationship. Everyone at some point in their lives has desired something or someone and was not able get their heart’s desire. There is also always that person who wants to ruin another’s life for their own personal benefit.

Desire is a theme found in many pieces of literature and works of art. It is feeling that has been felt by everyone at some point in their lives. It is personal and private and relatable to. As I end this entry I would like whoever is reading this to ponder about the desires in his/her life.

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