Ben and Gus’s revolvers symbolize obedience to authority and the consequences of challenging authority. Ben, the senior partner and more compliant of the play’s two central characters, keeps his revolver polished and regularly inspects it to ensure that it’s in working order. This shows his commitment to his job—and more importantly, to obeying authority. Gus, by contrast, doesn’t polish his revolver and doesn’t inspect it before a job, and this leads Ben to accuse Gus of slacking on the job. Gus’s poorly maintained gun thus reflects his wavering obedience to authority and propensity to challenge the orders their boss, Wilson, gives them rather than obey them without question, as Ben does. When Ben criticizes Gus for not properly maintaining his gun, he’s really criticizing Gus for Gus’s skepticism of authority. But if having a polished and loaded revolver symbolizes a person’s willingness to obey authority, it follows that a willingness to obey authority is what keeps someone armed and protected against danger. At the very end of the play, unarmed Gus re-enters the room through the right-hand door, revealing himself to be the target of Ben’s hit as Ben raises and aims his revolver at Gus. In his vulnerable and doomed state, the unarmed Gus becomes a symbol for the power one loses when one disobeys authority, sets out on their own, and no longer enjoys the protections that come with existing within a broader social system.
Revolvers Quotes in The Dumb Waiter
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?
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.