Harold Pinter, “The Birthday Party”

1957

Meg, married to Petey, runs a boarding house, where Stanley is the only tenant. Meg seems mentally incapacitated somehow – all her dialogue is repetitive and redundant, circling around the same blind attempt at optimism in the face of the men’s dismissal of her daily routines. We learn it is Stanley’s birthday. In honor of his past as a pianist (this is debatable), Meg has purchased him a child’s drum. Two men, McCann and Goldberg, show up to take Stanley away to Monty. It’s interesting that their names are Scottish and Jewish, and seem also to mimic American names associated with Madison Ave. advertising and Hollywood. The seaside location is a picture of a secondary, suburban, Cold War Britain. Meg decides with them to host a birthday party for Stanley, which ends as he attacks Meg and tries to rape the neighbor, Lulu. The two men interrogate Stanley until he breaks the next day, taking him away despite some weak protests from Petey. Meg comes home from the market and notices that the car is gone, but ends the play not knowing the truth about Stanley. It would be interesting to compare to Jeanne Dielman. 

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