Various interpretations of
“The Birthday Party”
Paper - 9 The Modernist Literature.
PG Enrollment No: BU13141001177
MA Sem.: 3
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Department of English
♦ It means the expression in art of the
meaninglessness of human existence.
♦ The Birthday Party is full of disjointed
information that defies efforts to distinguish
between reality and illusion.
The Play as Comedy of Menace
♦ The menace evolves from actual violence in the play or
from an underlying sense of violence throughout the play.
♦ It may develop from a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity.
The audience may be made to feel that the security of the
principal character, and even the audience’s own security, is
threatened by some impending danger/fear.
♦ This feeling of menace establishes a strong connection
between character’s predicament and audience’s personal
‘There are no hard distinctions between what
is real and what is unreal, nor between what
is true and what is false. A thing is not
necessarily either true or false; it can be both
true and false.’
~ Harold Pinter
♦ Susan Harris Smith observes: "The term
'Pinteresque' has had an established place in the
English language for almost thirty years.
♦ "Resembling or characteristic of his plays…
Pinter's plays are typically characterized by
implications of threat and strong feeling produced
through colloquial language, apparent triviality,
and long pauses."
Point of Views
♦ It is a deeply political play about the individual's
imperative need for resistance
♦ according to Billington,
Though he "doubts whether this was conscious on
Pinter's part," it is also "a private, obsessive work about
time past; about some vanished world, either real or
idealised, into which all but one of the characters readily
escapes.. From the very outset, the defining quality of a
Pinter play is not so much fear and menace though they
are undoubtedly present as a yearning for some lost
Eden as a refuge from the uncertain, miasmic present"
♦ In The Angry Theatre John Russell Taylor writes:
"The ambiguity…not only creates an unnerving
atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty, but also helps
to generalize and universalize the fears and tensions
to which Pinter's characters are subject.“
♦ The aim of presenting conventional, typical
characters lies in the fact that Pinter wants the
audience to be misled into believing that the play is
realistic so that when the characters start reacting
unexpectedly the impact is greater.
♦ As quoted by Arnold P. Hinchliffe, Polish critic Grzegorz
Sinko points out that in The Birthday Party we see the
destruction of the victim from the victim's own point of
"One feels like saying that the two executioners, Goldberg
and McCann, stand for all the principles of the state and
social conformism. Goldberg refers to his 'job' in a
typically Kafkaesque official language which deprives the
crimes of all sense and reality." ... [Of Stanley's removal,
Sinko adds:] "Maybe Stanley will meet his death there or
maybe he will only receive a conformist brainwashing
after which he is promised ... many other gifts of
The Birthday Party (play).
♀ Harold Pinter’s play is a unbounded by many facts.
Any sort of single interpretation of Pinter’s play is not
possible. He show us in the play blindness, Society’s
treatment of an artist and Growing up to adulthood
from childhood. One can think of nothingness in every
Pinter in his speech at the time of Noble Prize:
“I have often been asked how my plays come about. I
cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to
say that this is what happened. That is what they said.
That is what they did.”