The Birthday Party | Study Guide

Harold Pinter

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The Birthday Party | Quotes


I used to like watching Stanley play the piano.

Meg, Act 1

Meg refers to a time when Stanley would play the piano for her. She enjoys watching him like she would her own child. Meg's affection for Stanley makes her blind to and more forgiving of his treatment of her.


You won't get a better breakfast there than here.

Meg, Act 1

Meg gives this response when Stanley threatens to find a different place to stay. He is angry because she refuses to fix a hot breakfast for him. Stanley recognizes her vulnerabilities and manipulates Meg to get what he wants. He knows that Meg thrives on compliments and is concerned about how others view her.


I don't know what I'd do without you.

Stanley, Act 1

Stanley unexpectedly validates Meg and her need for acceptance when he expresses his appreciation of her. The moment of kindness is brief before he insults her tea. Stanley and Meg have a codependent relationship. They need each other in an unhealthy, self-serving way.


Forget all about it. It's a false alarm.

Stanley, Act 1

Stanley does not believe that the two men Meg referred to are coming to the house. He says this statement aloud as if to calm his worries. The use of the word "alarm" shows that he is suspicious of these men. It also suggests that Stanley has a past that he has not shared with Meg and Petey.


I've played all over the world ... I once gave a concert.

Stanley, Act 1

Stanley talks about his concert pianist career with Meg. He brags about an extensive career and then reveals he gave one concert. His piano days ended when he was locked inside a concert hall. He realized then that he had no future in music and fled in search of shelter. Stanley changed the course of his life when he arrived at the boarding house where Meg and Petey welcomed him.


Listen. You knew what I was talking about before, didn't you?

Stanley, Act 2

Stanley knows why Goldberg and McCann are at the house. Stanley tells McCann that he knows him from the past, but McCann does not agree. Stanley tries to get McCann on his side to protect himself from Goldberg.


Is the number 846 possible or necessary?

Goldberg, Act 2

Goldberg asks Stanley this question during the interrogation. Goldberg tells Stanley that his answer is incorrect and provides a reason that makes little sense. The peppering of questions and ridiculous explanations antagonizes Stanley who is eventually so upset that he is unable to respond.


What makes you think you exist?

Goldberg, Act 2

Goldberg tells Stanley that what he is doing is not considered living and implies that Stanley is a shell of the man he once was. Stanley does not live, think, or love. Stanley begins to sweat and moan as his emotional breakdown begins.


He's lived here a long while now and he's my Stanley now.

Meg, Act 2

Meg is so needy of Stanley that she refers to him as a possession. She becomes jealous and possessive when he talks of leaving. Her affections for him are distorted and unhealthy. Meg's husband Petey is gone more than he is present. He leaves for work several times a day and plays chess one night per week. When Petey is home he is usually distracted and reads the newspaper.


But you say he stays in bed too much.

Meg, Act 3

Stanley shows signs of being depressed because he lacks interest in doing much. Petey normally tells Meg that Stanley should spend more time out of his bedroom. Petey says this because he knows that Stanley has suffered an emotional breakdown.


Yes, she does sometimes. Sometimes she forgets.

Petey, Act 3

Meg can be forgetful and scatterbrained. She is unable to manage multiple tasks at once. Petey recognizes this and is patient with her. Petey does not point out her shortcomings like Stanley does because he knows that she would be upset if she made a mistake. Petey may not be fully attentive to Meg, but he is sensitive to her feelings.


There is no guarantee how ... but with certain people ... it's a foregone conclusion.

Goldberg, Act 3

Goldberg explains to Petey how Stanley could suddenly have a nervous breakdown. Goldberg suggests a character flaw in Stanley that predicts this type of mental illness.


Aren't you going back to the beach?

Goldberg, Act 3

Goldberg asks Petey if he will head back to the beach. He tells Petey that the beach will be busy and he will be needed. Goldberg does not want anyone around when he and McCann walk Stanley out of the house.


Have you got anything to confess?

McCann, Act 3

McCann assumes that Lulu is a prostitute when she comes down the stairs because he witnessed the flirting between her and Goldberg the night before. McCann does not know that Goldberg violated Lulu when she was drunk. This information adds irony to McCann's comment because Lulu lost her innocence to Goldberg.


It was a lovely party. I haven't laughed so much in years.

Meg, Act 3

Meg's description of the birthday party is far removed from the reality of the evening. She remembers that the drum broke but does not remember that Stanley tried to strangle her and attacked Lulu. Meg has no idea that Stanley is suffering upstairs and is unable to speak. She chooses to remember only what makes her happy.

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