World War II and after – responses of three british dramatists – Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and John Osborne
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The post-World War II era was a time of disintegration in every sphere of life. The two World Wars shattered the Western myth of a rational and humane evolution of the world based on principles of equality, growth and co-operation. Feelings of shock, disillusionment and helplessness replaced the earlier sentiments. The destruction brought about by World War II affected the personal, social and political life of millions of people all over Europe. The consequences of two consecutive wars created a sense of severe depression within the British society also. As a result the loss of faith in human existence drained all hopes for a good life and psychologically caused a prevalent sense of fragmentation and instability. The two World Wars destabilized the balance of life for the British society both physically and spiritually due mass destruction leaving a crippled society. The immensely chaotic environment of the times led to the development of such plays that would reflect the impact of the trauma the World Wars brought about upon the English society. Writers such as Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter became associated with the Theatre of the Absurd, while John Osborne came to be known as the voice of the Angry Young Men movement. Samuel Beckett's plays showed the grave metaphysical crisis human beings experienced psychologically due to the bleak state of human existence by basing the plays on absurdist elements. Thus, the characters in Beckett's plays all deal with a broken psyche and reveal their inner struggles caused by a loss of identity and existential trauma. Harold Pinter’s plays too fall in the category of the Theatre of the Absurd, where the language of the plays reveals the characters’ suppressed emotions resulting from a world of cruelty and malice. Pinter's well-known use of pauses and silences highlights the mystery of the characters as well as the lack of communication that makes the characters misinterpret one another’s words and actions.