2. Summary of the play
3.1 Act I
3.2 Act II
3.3 Act III
3.4 Act IV
The topic of this essay will be Harold Pinter’s play “Mountain Language”. The play will be analyzed with regard to the question, whether it is a political play or not. First of all, a summary of the play shall be given, followed by a detailed analysis of each act.
2. Summary of the play
The play “Mountain Language” consists of four short acts. The setting is in front of and within a prison. In the first act a line of women who want to visit their imprisoned husbands are standing at a prison wall. They have been standing there for eight hours in the snow. They are questioned by a sergeant and an officer. One of the women has been bitten by a dog. The officer tells the women that their language, namely that of the mountain people, is forbidden and that their husbands are enemies of the state. One of the women turns out not to belong to the mountain people.
Act 2 is set in a visitors room. An elderly woman visits a prisoner. She is told by the guard not to talk in her own language and jabbed by him with a stick, when she does not obey. The prisoner turns out to be a joker.
Act 3 is set in a corridor. A hooded man is led to a young woman. She has come in through the wrong door. The hooded man collapses and is dragged off. The sergeant advises the woman to ask a specific person for information. The payment can be fucking.
Act 4 is again set in the visitors room. This time the elderly woman is allowed to talk in her own language but keeps silent. The prisoner, her son, falls from his chair, violently shaking. The sergeant is annoyed.
3.1 Act I
The first act begins straight away with a conflict. A sergeant tries to question the women for their names and repeatedly gets the same answer, namely that they have already given their names. An officer stops “this shit” and enquires after any complaints. Sergeant and officer are certainly military ranks, so that we can conclude that this is not an ordinary prison but a military prison. The stubborn repetition of the same question is echoed by an equally stubborn echo of the same answer, thus ridiculing the formal procedure of questioning. Later on this formal procedure is again ridiculed, when the officer claims that the dogs do give their names before they bite – as this is the formal procedure. The assumption of moral behaviour and some code of honour in dogs is so absurd, that I am not quite sure whether the officer is meant to be joking and making fun of the women or not. It certainly leads the firmly set structures of military procedures to absurdity.
“Enemies of the state” is certainly a political expression. So the prisoners are there due to political reasons. Their language is forbidden by a military decree. The officer claims that this language is dead which is not true, of course. It is the policy of those in power to suppress those who they consider to be enemies (of the state) and to force the dominating culture on them. Language as a means of self-expression and identity is therefore oppressed.
Another expression of power is that of sexual discrimination and abuse. The sergeant circles the young woman and touches her bottom, asking: ”What language do you speak with your arse?” (p.23). The officer interferes and stops him. The young woman seems to be comparatively self-confident and well informed. She knows that she has the right to see her husband. And she does not belong to the mountain people. The sergeant calls her a “fucking intellectual”. The argumentation between the officer and the sergeant is very curious and discriminating, as well. They assume a direct link between physical aspects and mental attitudes: “Intellectual arses wobble the best”.