The Dumb Waiter

by

Harold Pinter

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Ben Character Analysis

Ben is a hitman and one of the play’s two central characters. He’s quiet, professional, and single-mindedly focused on carrying out his and Gus’s assigned hit according to instructions from their boss, Wilson. Ben, unlike Gus, obeys authority without question. He’s also less burdened by class anxiety than Gus. As working-class hitmen, Ben and Gus are at the bottom of the social hierarchy and at the mercy of their wealthier, more powerful higherups. But whereas Gus grumbles about being mistreated and underpaid, condemning Wilson for failing to communicate with them, Ben accepts his inferior position and the disadvantages that come with it. Ben’s respect for power hierarchies and the status quo comes through in the demeaning way he treats Gus, his subordinate partner. Ben repeatedly cuts Gus off and prohibits Gus from asking questions about their assignment. He becomes agitated and aggressive when Gus challenges his authority, slamming his newspaper onto his bed to threaten violence. Though Ben insists that he’s only looking out for Gus, Ben clearly benefits from his and Gus’s power imbalance. For instance, only Ben can use the speaking-tube to communicate with the people upstairs. And at the end of the play, it’s Ben who receives the order to carry out a hit on Gus, who has apparently been their target the entire time, though the play leaves it ambiguous whether Ben has known this all along. If he has known, this shows just how low Ben is willing to stoop to remain in the good graces of his higherups and maintain what little power an oppressive system affords him.

Ben Quotes in The Dumb Waiter

The The Dumb Waiter quotes below are all either spoken by Ben or refer to Ben. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
).
The Dumb Waiter Quotes

BEN. It’s enough to make you want to puke, isn’t it?

GUS. Who advised him to do a thing like that?

BEN. A man of eighty-seven crawling under a lorry!

GUS. It’s unbelievable.

BEN. It’s down here in black and white.

GUS. Incredible.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ben’s Newspaper
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] I mean, you come into a place when it’s still dark, you come into a room you’ve never seen before, you sleep all day, you do your job, and then you go away in the night again.

Pause.

I like to get a look at the scenery. You never get a chance in this job.

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben, Wilson
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. You know what your trouble is?

GUS. What?

BEN. You haven’t got any interests.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] He doesn’t seem to bother much about our comfort these days.

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben, Wilson
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. Go and light it.

GUS. Light what?

BEN. The kettle.

GUS. You mean the gas.

BEN. Who does?

GUS. You do.

BEN (his eyes narrowing). What do you mean, I mean the gas?

GUS. Well, that’s what you mean, don’t you? The gas?

BEN (powerfully). If I say go and light the kettle I mean go and light the kettle.

GUS. How can you light a kettle?

BEN. It’s a figure of speech! Light the kettle. It’s a figure of speech!

GUS. I’ve never heard it.

BEN. Light the kettle! It’s common usage!

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: The Matches
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. […] Gus, I’m not trying to be unreasonable. I’m just trying to point out something to you.

GUS. Yes, but—

BEN. Who’s the senior partner here, me or you?

GUS. You.

BEN. I’m only looking after your interests, Gus. You’ve got to learn, mate.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: The Matches
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. Stop wondering. You’ve got a job to do. Why don’t you just do it and shut up?

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus, Wilson
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. That’s what I was wondering about.

BEN. What?

GUS. The job.

BEN. What job?

GUS (tentatively). I thought perhaps you might know something.

BEN looks at him.

I thought perhaps you—I mean—have you got any idea—who it’s going to be tonight?

BEN. Who what’s going to be?

They look at each other.

GUS (at length). Who it’s going to be.

Silence.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS (thoughtfully). I find him hard to talk to, Wilson. Do you know that, Ben?

BEN. Scrub round it, will you?

Pause.

GUS. There are a number of things I want to ask him. But I never get round to it, when I see him.

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 101-102
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. You’ll get a swipe round your earhole if you don’t watch your step.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus, Wilson
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] She wasn’t much to look at, I know, but still. It was a mess though, wasn’t it? It was a mess. Honest, I can’t remember a mess like that one. They don’t seem to hold together like men, women. A looser texture, like. Didn’t she spread, eh? She didn’t half spread. Kaw! I’ve been meaning to ask you.

BEN sits up and clenches his eyes.

Who cleans up after we’ve gone? I’m curious about that. Who does the clearing up? […]

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker)
Page Number: 102-103
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] Do you mean I can keep the Eccles cake then?

BEN. Keep it?

GUS. Well, they don’t know we’ve got it, do they?

BEN. That’s not the point.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS (calling up the hatch). Three McVitie and Price! One Lyons Red Label! One Smith’s Crisps! One Eccles cake! One Fruit and Nut!

BEN. Cadbury’s.

GUS (up the hatch). Cadbury’s!

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. This is some place. No tea and biscuits.

BEN. Eating makes you lazy, mate. You’re getting lazy, you know that? You don’t want to get slack on your job.

GUS. Who me?

BEN. Slack, mate, slack.

GUS. Who me? Slack?

BEN. Have you checked your gun? You haven’t even checked your gun. It looks disgraceful, anyway. Why don’t you ever polish it?

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: Revolvers
Page Number: 108-109
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. […] Do you know what it takes to make an Ormitha Macarounada?

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus, Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

BEN. Do you know what he said? Light the kettle! Not put on the kettle! Not light the gas! But light the kettle!

GUS. How can we light the kettle?

BEN. What do you mean?

GUS. There’s no gas.

Related Characters: Ben (speaker), Gus (speaker), Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 112-113
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] What about us?

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben, Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter , The Matches
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. […] We send him up all we’ve got and he’s not satisfied. No, honest, it’s enough to make the cat laugh. Why did you send him up all that stuff? (Thoughtfully.) Why did I send it up? […]

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben, Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

GUS. What do we do if it’s a girl?

BEN. We do the same.

GUS. Exactly the same?

BEN. Exactly.

Pause.

GUS. We don’t do anything different?

BEN. We do exactly the same.

GUS. Oh.

Related Characters: Gus (speaker), Ben, Wilson
Related Symbols: The Dumb Waiter
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

The door right opens sharply. BEN turns, his revolver levelled at the door.
GUS stumbles in.
He is stripped of his jacket, waistcoat, tie, holster and revolver.
He stops, body stooping, his arms at his sides.
He raises his head and looks at BEN.
A long silence.
They stare at each other.

Related Characters: Ben, Gus, Wilson
Related Symbols: Revolvers
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Dumb Waiter LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Dumb Waiter PDF

Ben Character Timeline in The Dumb Waiter

The timeline below shows where the character Ben appears in The Dumb Waiter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Dumb Waiter
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
...left of the beds and a door that leads to a passage to their right. Ben lies on the left bed reading a newspaper. Gus is sitting on the right bed,... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben silently watches as Gus finishes tying his shoelaces and then walks slowly to the left... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben cries out, “Kaw!” Then he picks up his paper and tells Gus about a story... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Gus returns to the room. He says he has a question for Ben, but before he can ask it, Ben asks Gus what he was doing outside the... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus tells Ben he hopes this job won’t take long. Then, he repeats that he has a question... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Gus tries to ask Ben a question again. This time, Ben lets him. Gus asks if Ben has noticed that... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus complains about his and Ben’s job: they arrive in darkness, enter an unfamiliar room, sleep all day, do the job,... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...praise the nice crockery and complain about how awful the room is. Then he asks Ben, who is by now thoroughly annoyed, why Ben stopped their car in the middle of... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus pauses. Then he asks if Ben means that “someone had to get out before” they arrived here. Gus looks at his... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus asks Ben where they are right now. Ben says they’re in Birmingham. Gus is suddenly interested—Birmingham is... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
...lose a tie-breaking game. He can’t remember which team they lost to, though. He tells Ben that Ben was there, too, but Ben doesn’t remember being there. He doesn’t remember the... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Suddenly, an envelope slides underneath the right-side door. Gus stares at the envelope as Ben continues to talk about football. Gus points to the envelope. Ben doesn’t know what it... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus says he can make tea now that he has matches. Ben orders him to “light the kettle.” Gus asks if Ben means he should light the... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben advises Gus to heed his advice. As “the senior partner,” Ben is only trying to... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
...wonders aloud “who it’ll be tonight,” then he announces that he’s been meaning to ask Ben something. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Ben groans as he swings his legs onto his bed.... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...gone out because they’re out of gas and have no money to feed the meter. Ben says they’ll have to wait for Wilson. Gus counters that sometimes Wilson doesn’t come by—sometimes... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
...place,” and he should have made sure there would be enough gas to make tea. Ben guesses that Wilson only rents the place. Gus disagrees. It’s the same thing everywhere they... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...about “the last one[.]” Then he clarifies, explaining that he means “That girl.” Gus asks Ben how many times he’s read the paper. Ben accuses Gus of “criticising” him. He threatens... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben and Gus are silent as they sit back down on their respective beds. Gus continues... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...the beds—something is being lowered down from upstairs. The noise stops. The room is silent. Ben and Gus look at each other. Ben motions for Gus to approach the wall, and... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...the wall. Gus thinks it’s funny that whoever is upstairs is in “such a hurry.” Ben disagrees—there’s nothing funny about any of this; cafés change ownership very quickly. Gus is surprised... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben holds his revolver as Gus approaches the dumb waiter and draws out a piece of... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben asks Gus what Gus has in his bag. Gus approaches the hatch and shouts up... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus exits and returns with the plate. Ben looks inside Gus’s bag and removes a packet of crisps. When Gus returns with the... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben blames Gus for missing the dumb waiter. Gus asks what they’re supposed to do now.... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...and retrieves a piece of paper. He reads the paper aloud: “Macaroni Pastitsio. Ormitha Macarounada.” Ben recognizes these as Greek dishes. Gus remarks that this is “pretty high class.” Ben tells... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben tells Gus he shouldn’t shout this way, but at least they’re done—for now, anyway. Ben... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...He also wonders if there are additional stoves and cooks somewhere else in the building. Ben replies that of course there are other stoves and cooks—it takes a lot of effort... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus grumbles about having a headache. Just then, the dumb waiter descends. The sound makes Ben jump up from his bed. Gus gets up, picks up the note, and reads it... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Ben returns to his bed. Urgently, he tells Gus that they had “better tell them” that... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...whistle, but there’s no sound. He shouts into the tube that they don’t have anything. Ben grabs the tube from Gus, places it to his own mouth, and speaks into it... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Suddenly excited, Ben says that the voice upstairs told him to light the kettle. Gus reminds Ben that... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben interrupts Gus’s grumbling. “Time’s getting on,” he notes in a quiet, wary voice. Gus says... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben frowns just then. Gus observes that Ben has left out the step where Gus takes... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus stands up, shivering, and excuses himself. He exits through the left door. Ben stays sitting upright on his bed. There’s the sound of the lavatory chain being pulled,... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus asks Ben who’s upstairs. Ben doesn’t answer. Instead, he urgently grabs for his paper on his bed.... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...whistle, and shouts into the tube, “WE’VE GOT NOTHING LEFT! NOTHING! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Alarmed, Ben calls Gus a “maniac” and grabs the tube from him. He warns Gus to stop... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben lies down on his bed. He and Gus sit in silence. Then the dumb waiter... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Ben gets up and adjusts the revolver in his holster. Gus gets up and announces that... (full context)