The Dumb Waiter

by

Harold Pinter

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Gus Character Analysis

Gus is a hitman and one of the play’s two central characters. He’s more vocal and curious than Ben, his superior. Whereas Ben never challenges authority, Gus has lots of questions about the specifics of their mission. He also repeatedly tries to get Ben to talk about their past hits, like one that involved a woman and was apparently quite gory. Gus’s fixation on the violence of this earlier hit suggests that he takes issue with—or is at least interested in examining—the moral ramifications of his and Ben’s profession and their obedience to authority. Gus, unlike Ben, takes issue with how their working-class status invites exploitation and poor treatment from authority figures. Gus spends a lot of time grumbling about how lacking the room they’ve been assigned to wait in is and about their boss, Wilson’s, regular failure to be upfront with them about their assignments. He also speculates that the people using the dumb waiter to send down food orders from the café upstairs don’t actually want the food and are merely putting in orders to mess with them. Gus’s lower status also means he’s not permitted to speak directly with their higherups and so must rely on Ben for information. Meanwhile, Ben mistreats and talks down to Gus throughout the play, refusing to answer Gus’s questions and keeping him in check with the threat of violence. The play ends with Gus walking through the right door—the door they’ve been told the target will walk through—and so revealing himself to be the target of that night’s hit. Ben points his revolver at Gus as both men stare at each other silently. Gus’s betrayal and probable demise illustrates the dangers inherent in challenging authority in a society that rewards conformity and punishes individuality.

Gus Quotes in The Dumb Waiter

The The Dumb Waiter quotes below are all either spoken by Gus or refer to Gus. 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:
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The Dumb Waiter PDF

Gus Character Timeline in The Dumb Waiter

The timeline below shows where the character Gus 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
...to a passage to their right. Ben lies on the left bed reading a newspaper. Gus is sitting on the right bed, struggling to tie his shoes. The men are dressed... (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 door. Then Gus stops,... (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 he just read about an elderly man who couldn’t find a way... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Gus lies down on his bed and explains that he didn’t sleep well last night because... (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... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus continues to praise the nice crockery and complain about how awful the room is. Then... (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... (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... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Gus laughs and remembers a time he saw the Villa lose a tie-breaking game. He can’t... (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... (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... (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 look out... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Gus exits through the left door and returns moments later, announcing that the stove is “going.”... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus returns moments later and announces that the stove has gone out because they’re out of... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Gus throws a tea packet into his bag. He thinks that Wilson should give them a... (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 Wilson some more. He has lots of questions to ask Wilson but has... (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 to discuss... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
...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 Gus does.... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
The box on which the paper arrives ascends back up through the wall. Gus thinks it’s funny that whoever is upstairs is in “such a hurry.” Ben disagrees—there’s nothing... (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 paper. He reads aloud, “Soup... (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 it, “Wait... (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... (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. Ben says... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Just then, the dumb waiter descends. Gus approaches it and retrieves a piece of paper. He reads the paper aloud: “Macaroni Pastitsio.... (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 tells Gus... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus wonders aloud where the cook could be. He also wonders if there are additional stoves... (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... (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 they can’t fill these orders because they don’t... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus blows into the whistle, but there’s no sound. He shouts into the tube that they... (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 they can’t do this because they don’t have any gas. Anxious once... (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 he can’t... (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 out his gun—and he’s... (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... (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... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
There’s a violent tone to Gus’s voice as he asks why “he” is playing games with them when they’ve been put... (full context)
Class Anxiety and Power  Theme Icon
Absurdism and Meaninglessness  Theme Icon
Obedience to Authority  Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality  Theme Icon
Gus’s rant is interrupted by the dumb waiter, which comes down the shaft behind them. Gus... (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 ascends once more. After a pause, they hear... (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 he’s going to grab a glass of water. He leaves... (full context)