The Birthday Party | Study Guide

Harold Pinter

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The Birthday Party | Character Analysis



Stanley is unkempt and lazy. He has been staying with Meg and Petey since a traumatizing event where he was locked in a concert hall a year ago. Stanley depends on Meg's kindness but is often cruel to her. Stanley grows increasingly agitated when two guests Goldberg and McCann arrive at Meg's home. He suffers an emotional breakdown at a birthday party Meg throws for him.


Meg enjoys caring for her husband and her guest Stanley. She is happy to cook breakfast for them. She seeks reassurance from men through tending to their needs and some flirting. She is afraid of not being liked. Meg organizes a birthday party for Stanley. She wants to make it a perfect celebration. She worries when Stanley breaks down at the party and does not realize how disturbed Stanley is.


Petey comes and goes from his home throughout the day. He attends to the deck chairs early in the morning and then expects his wife to bring him breakfast. He responds to her chatter while he reads the paper. Petey is not at the party where Stanley breaks down because he is out playing chess. He shows that he cares about Stanley when he tells Goldberg and McCann that they cannot take Stanley away. At the end he does not tell Meg that the men took Stanley away.


Lulu comes into Meg and Petey's home to drop off a parcel. She is concerned about Stanley's appearance and tells him that he needs to take better care of himself. She rejects his flirtations. Lulu attends the birthday party Meg throws for Stanley and shows interest in Goldberg. She flirts with him and sits on his lap. She is angry at him the next day when she sees him for the way he treated her after the party.


Goldberg selects McCann to do a job for him that involves Stanley. Goldberg is a charmer and gives compliments to Meg when he notices that she enjoys them. He is excited to learn that Stanley is the man he is looking to question. Goldberg is the one who directs the interrogation of Stanley. He thinks that McCann is too nervous and tells him to calm down. He is not regretful when Lulu accuses him of inappropriate behavior the night of the party.


McCann works for Goldberg and is the one who is responsible for getting the job done. He is not personable with others and says very little. He purposely breaks Stanley's glasses during the birthday party and puts the toy drum in Stanley's path. McCann talks with Stanley early the next morning in his room and keeps Meg from coming in.

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