From the opening lines of The Room to the final curtain of Pinter's latest play, there are three concepts which to some degree lie behind each of the author's dramas. These three interrelated concepts - menace, communication, and verification - create the basic meaning of every Pinter work.
Essentially, every Pinter play can be seen as dealing with the three fundamental concepts in the following circular pattern: Menace exists, a priori. Because of the existence of menace there is a need for individuals to communicate with one another in order to gain reassurance; but the menace interferes and communication breaks down; or the individuals involved refuse to communicate for fear of exposing themselves to further menace. Lack of communication, therefore, ironically creates further menace. Because of the existence of menace there is also a need to verify things, to determine reality in the world. Unfortunately, menace again interferes and verification is hindered. The breakdown of communication further frustrates efforts to verify, and once more, additional menace is the result etc., etc.
Menace is a threat to the status quo. Whereas in the early plays the threat is physical, it becomes progressively more psychologically in nature in the succeeding dramas.
As a technique, Pinter creates a mood of menace which carries the plot forward while at the same time it involves the audience with the suggestion that they are just as vulnerable to the terror embodied on stage as the characters are. The mood is neither surrealistic nor unfamiliar to the audience, for as Pinter claims in an interview (1960):
Pinter has specifically stated how and why he explores human failure in communication. In an article he wrote in 1962, he explains his understanding of the function of language and paralanguage. Quite obviously, according to Pinter, language is used to communicate; but it is also, and just as importantly, used for non-communication. To Pinter's mind this leads to an observation about the two sorts of silence which can occur in speech:
Clearly this use of language can be considered as a defense mechanism. The individual is not as likely to be attacked, at least not as likely to be successfully attacked, if it does not reveal his own weaknesses.
The third concept of Pinter's dramatic philosophy is that of verification. According to Pinter:
It is difficult, if not impossible, under the circumstances Pinter describes, to talk about anything, since there seems to be no way to assess the meaning of anything. If everybody is constantly changing, and changing to the extent that there is no such thing as a reference point because no one is recognisably the same person from one moment to the next, communication about oneself becomes impossible, let alone communication about things outside oneself.
Pinter said in 1960: