This article argues that allusions to world wars in many of Harold Pinter's plays perform more than historical or referential work to past events. They also contribute to an anxious temporality in his plays well defined by recent articulations of the concept of “total war,” a concept that erases distinctions between periods of war and peace and replaces these with a sense of totalizing violence. Inherent to the definition of total war is a sense of foreboding and a future of displacement and unease that is always alive in the present. Reading such plays as The Homecoming, No Man's Land, and Ashes to Ashes, this article attempts to link their sense of time with Pinter's adolescent experiences of World War II in East London.

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