The Birthday Party

by

Harold Pinter

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Along with her husband, Petey, Meg is one of proprietors of the boarding house in which Stanley lives. What Meg lacks in intelligence, she tries to make up for in fastidiousness, constantly trying to please her guests and establish routines that will impose order on the boarding house. Her connection to Stanley is particularly bizarre, as she treats him both maternally and romantically, forever scolding him to eat his breakfast while also making potentially sexual remarks about their relationship. What’s most interesting about Meg, though, is that she devotes herself to order and routine even when it doesn’t make sense to enforce these everyday practices. For example, when she runs out of cornflakes one morning, she still insists that Stanley should come downstairs to eat breakfast, caring more about going through her habitual motions than acting in accordance with reality. This is the same kind of naivete that makes it hard for her to see that Goldberg and McCann, when they arrive, are intent upon psychologically torturing Stanley. Instead of recognizing their malicious motives, she simply focuses on throwing Stanley a birthday party (though he tells her it’s not his birthday). What’s more, on the morning after the party, she acts as if nothing extraordinary has happened, even though Stanley tried to strangle her and then tried to rape Lulu. Knowing how important it is to her to maintain order and routine, Petey tells her at the end of the play that Stanley is still upstairs sleeping when—in reality—Goldberg and McCann have taken him away for good.

Meg Boles Quotes in The Birthday Party

The The Birthday Party quotes below are all either spoken by Meg Boles or refer to Meg Boles. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Samuel French edition of The Birthday Party published in 2011.
Act One Quotes

MEG. […] I’m going to call that boy.

PETEY. Didn’t you take him up his cup of tea?

MEG. I always take him up his cup of tea. But that was a long time ago.

PETEY. Did he drink it?

MEG. I made him. I stood there till he did. I’m going to call him.

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Petey Boles (speaker), Stanley Webber
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. What are the cornflakes like, Stan?

STANLEY. Horrible.

MEG. Those flakes? Those lovely flakes? You’re a liar, a little liar. They’re refreshing. It says so. For people when they get up late.

STANLEY. The milk’s off.

MEG. It’s not. Petey ate his, didn’t you, Petey?

PETEY. That’s right.

MEG. There you are then.

STANLEY. (Pushes away his plate.) All right, I’ll go on to the second course.

MEG. He hasn’t finished the first course and he wants to go on to the second course!

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker), Petey Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

STANLEY. Who gave you the right to take away my tea?

MEG. You wouldn’t drink it.

STANLEY. (He stares at her. Quietly.) Who do you think you’re talking to?

MEG. (Uncertainly.) What?

[…]

STANLEY. […] Tell me, Mrs. Boles, when you address yourself to me, do you ever ask yourself who exactly you are talking to? Eh? (Silence. He groans, his trunk falls forward, his head falls into his hands on the table.)

MEG. (In a small voice.) Didn’t you enjoy your breakfast, Stan?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. Have you played the piano in those places before?

STANLEY. Played the piano? I’ve played the piano all over the world. All over the country. (Pause.) I once gave a concert.

MEG. A concert?

STANLEY. (Reflectively.) Yes. It was a good one, too. They were all there that night. Every single one of them. It was a great success. Yes. A concert. At Lower Edmonton.

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

STANLEY. (To himself.) I had a unique touch. Absolutely unique. They came up to me. They came up to me and said they were grateful. Champagne we had that night, the lot. (Pause.) My father nearly came down to hear me. Well, I dropped him a card anyway. But I don’t think he could make it. No, I—I lost the address, that was it. (Pause.) Yes. Lower Edmonton. Then after that, you know what they did? They carved me up. Carved me up. It was all arranged, it was all worked out. My next concert. Somewhere else it was. In winter. I went down there to play. Then, when I got there, the hall was closed, the place was shuttered up, not even a caretaker. They’d locked it up. (Takes off his glasses and wipes them on his pyjama jacket.) A fast one. They pulled a fast one. I’d like to know who was responsible for that. […] All right, Jack, I can take a tip. They want me to crawl down on my bended knees. Well I can take a tip…any day of the week. (He replaces his glasses, then looks at MEG.) Look at her. You’re just an old piece of rock cake, aren’t you? (He crosses to her and looks down at her.) That’s what you are, aren’t you?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. […] He once gave a concert. […] (Falteringly.) In…a big hall. His father gave him champagne. But then they locked the place up and he couldn’t get out. The caretaker had gone home. So he had to wait until the morning before he could get out. (With confidence.) They were very grateful. (Pause.) And then they all wanted to give him a tip. And so he took the tip. And then he got a fast train and he came down here.

GOLDBERG. Really?

MEG. Oh, yes. Straight down.

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Goldberg (speaker), Stanley Webber
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

Well—it’s very, very nice to be here tonight, in my house, and I want to propose a toast to Stanley, because it’s his birthday, and he’s lived here for a long while now, and he’s my Stanley now. And I think he’s a good boy, although sometimes he’s bad. (An appreciative laugh from GOLDBERG.) And he’s the only Stanley I know, and I know him better than all the world, although he doesn’t think so. (“Hear—hear” from GOLDBERG.) Well, I could cry because I’m so happy, having him here and not gone away, on his birthday, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him, and all you good people here tonight…(She sobs and sits above table.)

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Stanley Webber, Goldberg
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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Meg Boles Character Timeline in The Birthday Party

The timeline below shows where the character Meg Boles appears in The Birthday Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
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...Boles enters the living room of the boarding house that he owns with his wife, Meg. As he sits at the table and begins to read the newspaper, Meg calls from... (full context)
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“Is Stanley up yet?” Meg asks, and Petey says that he doesn’t know. “I haven’t seen him down yet,” Meg... (full context)
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“Oh, Meg, two men came up to me on the beach last night,” Petey says. “They wanted... (full context)
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Calling out, Meg warns Stanley that she’s coming to get him, and then she goes upstairs and the... (full context)
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Meg tells Stanley she isn’t going to give him the second course, but he threatens to... (full context)
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Stanley laughs at Meg for claiming that she keeps a “clean” house. “Yes!” she insists. “And this house is... (full context)
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After several moments of dusting the sideboard and table, Meg turns to Stanley and asks, “Am I really succulent?” In turn, Stanley assures her that... (full context)
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“Are you going out?” Meg asks. “Not with you,” Stanley says, and then she says she’s going shopping and that... (full context)
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...a false alarm. A false alarm.” He then asks where his tea has gone, and Meg tells him she took it away because he said it was over-steeped. “Who gave you... (full context)
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Changing the subject, Meg asks, “When are you going to play the piano again? Like you used to? I... (full context)
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Again, Meg asks how long Stanley would be away for if he accepted the job, but he... (full context)
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...week.” He puts his glasses on—since he took them off during his monologue—and looks at Meg. “Look at her,” he says. “You’re just an old piece of rock cake, aren’t you?”... (full context)
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Telling Meg about these mysterious people with the wheelbarrow, Stanley says, “And when the van stops they... (full context)
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Meg enters the living room, and Goldberg tells her that he and McCann spoke to Petey... (full context)
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Meg tells Goldberg and McCann that she wishes Stanley could play the piano tonight, since it’s... (full context)
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After showing Goldberg and McCann their room, Meg comes downstairs again and speaks to Stanley in the living room. “Who are they?” he... (full context)
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Meg hands Stanley the parcel that Lulu brought to the house. When he opens it, he... (full context)
Act Two
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...a man on his birthday,” but Stanley maintains that it’s not his birthday and calls Meg “crazy” for saying so. “That’s a terrible thing to say,” McCann responds. (full context)
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...slew of questions that Stanley is hardly able to answer. He asks why Stanley bothers Meg, why he “behave[s] so badly,” what he wore the previous week, and why he left... (full context)
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...says. Before anything else can happen, the sound of a drumbeat fills the room as Meg enters wearing an evening dress and playing Stanley’s drum. (full context)
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Upon seeing Meg, Goldberg regales her with compliments. They then start pouring drinks, and Goldberg urges Meg to... (full context)
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Standing there in the dark, Meg begins her toast. “Well,” she says, “it’s very, very nice to be here tonight, in... (full context)
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...in a lifetime.” Going on, he says that he is “knocked over by the sentiments” Meg has expressed. “We all wander on our tod through this world,” he says to Stanley.... (full context)
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When the lights go on again, Meg and McCann fall into conversation while Goldberg and Lulu flirt with one another. As each... (full context)
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...flirt—Lulu disclosing that she likes older men and that Goldberg looks like her first true love—Meg and McCann also become rather friendly. Reminiscing about their childhoods, they lose themselves in their... (full context)
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Walking blindfolded through the living room, Meg finds McCann, who—when he plays the blind man—finds Stanley. All the while, Goldberg and Lulu... (full context)
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Just as Goldberg and McCann get Stanley to let go of Meg, the lights suddenly go out, leaving everyone in total darkness. “Where is he?” Goldberg says.... (full context)
Act Three
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Sitting at the breakfast table the following morning, Meg informs Petey that she has run out of cornflakes and has nothing to feed him... (full context)
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Meg asks Petey if he’s seen Stanley yet, and when he says he hasn’t, she says,... (full context)
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Before Meg leaves to go shopping, Goldberg comes downstairs and says that Stanley will be along soon.... (full context)
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Goldberg informs Petey that he and McCann will most likely leave before Meg returns. Accepting this, Petey goes to check on his garden as they wait for Stanley... (full context)
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...him to Monty,” Goldberg says. “He can stay here,” Petey replies, insisting that he and Meg can take care of him. Goldberg insists that Monty is the person Stanley needs, and... (full context)
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When Meg comes home, she doesn’t know that Goldberg and McCann have taken Stanley. Sitting at the... (full context)