The Birthday Party

by

Harold Pinter

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Birthday Party can help.

Petey Boles Character Analysis

Meg’s husband, and the co-proprietor of the boarding house in which Stanley lives. Petey is an affable man whose presence is rather minor in his own home, since he spends most of his time working at the nearby beach, where he puts out chairs for the public. Attuned to his wife’s eccentricities, Petey has no problem indulging Meg’s obsession with order and routine. When, for example, she talks about the same topics every morning, he simply goes along, agreeing that Stanley should come downstairs so that he isn’t late for breakfast. In fact, he even has this conversation with Meg at the end of the play, when Stanley is no longer in the house because McCann and Goldberg have taken him away. Despite the fact that he’s not very present, Petey is perhaps the only character in The Birthday Party who worries about Stanley after McCann and Goldberg psychologically torment him. In fact, he’s the only person who notices a change in Stanley at all, as made evident by the fact that he tries to stand up for him and, when this fails, yells, “Stan, don’t let them tell you what to do!”

Petey Boles Quotes in The Birthday Party

The The Birthday Party quotes below are all either spoken by Petey Boles or refer to Petey 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:
Act Three Quotes

Well, Mr. Boles, it can happen in all sorts of ways. A friend of mine was telling me about it only the other day. We’d both been concerned with another case—not entirely similar, of course, but…quite alike, quite alike. (He pauses. Crosses to the window seat.) Anyway, he was telling me, you see, this friend of mine, that sometimes it happens gradual—day by day it grows and grows and grows…day by day. And then other times it happens all at once. Poof! Like that! The nerves break. There’s no guarantee how it’s going to happen. But with certain people…it’s a foregone conclusion.

Related Characters: Goldberg (speaker), Stanley Webber, Petey Boles
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Birthday Party LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Birthday Party PDF

Petey Boles Character Timeline in The Birthday Party

The timeline below shows where the character Petey Boles appears in The Birthday Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
One morning, Petey Boles enters the living room of the boarding house that he owns with his wife,... (full context)
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
“Is Stanley up yet?” Meg asks, and Petey says that he doesn’t know. “I haven’t seen him down yet,” Meg says, to which... (full context)
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
“Oh, Meg, two men came up to me on the beach last night,” Petey says. “They wanted to know if we could put them up for a couple of... (full context)
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...tells him to eat them “like a good boy.” As he does so, he asks Petey, “What’s it like out today?” Interrupting their conversation about the weather, Meg says, “What are... (full context)
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...be able to get a “better breakfast” at a hotel. As she bickers with Stanley, Petey rises and says he’s going to return to work, and when Meg tries to stop... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Guilt and Transgression Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...two gentlemen,” he asks, and she informs him that she’s expecting guests. “Two gentlemen asked Petey if they could come and stay for a couple of nights. I’m expecting them,” she... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
Meg enters the living room, and Goldberg tells her that he and McCann spoke to Petey about staying in the boarding house. “Very pleased to meet you,” Meg says, and Goldberg... (full context)
Act Two
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...at the table and slowly tears a newspaper into “five equal strips” while Goldberg and Petey’s voices drift in from outside. Stanley enters the living room and greets McCann. “Were you... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Guilt and Transgression Theme Icon
Stanley becomes visibly shaken by the fact that Goldberg and Petey are lurking outside. “You want to steady yourself,” McCann says as Stanley rushes over to... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...that McCann is Irish, Stanley invites him to a nearby pub that serves Guinness, but Petey and Goldberg enter and interrupt their conversation. After introducing himself, Goldberg launches into a long... (full context)
Act Three
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Sitting at the breakfast table the following morning, Meg informs Petey that she has run out of cornflakes and has nothing to feed him because Goldberg... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Meg asks Petey if he’s seen Stanley yet, and when he says he hasn’t, she says, “Nor have... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
...Goldberg comes downstairs and says that Stanley will be along soon. Hearing this, Meg tells Petey to tell Stanley that she “won’t be long,” and then she exits. Turning to Goldberg,... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Guilt and Transgression Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
Petey asks Goldberg what brought on Stanley’s nervous breakdown, and Goldberg suggests that these kinds of... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Recounting his experience of the previous night, Petey says he came home to find the house completely dark because no one had put... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
...back Stanley his broken glasses, which he apparently tried to fit into his eyes. When Petey overhears this and says they can tape them, though, Goldberg says, “No, no, that’s all... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Guilt and Transgression Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Goldberg informs Petey that he and McCann will most likely leave before Meg returns. Accepting this, Petey goes... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...us. Come on, boy.” As they help him stand and make for the door, though, Petey enters and asks where they’re taking him. “We’re taking him to Monty,” Goldberg says. “He... (full context)
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Guilt and Transgression Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
Goldberg tells Petey that there’s “plenty of room in the car” for him, but Petey remains rooted where... (full context)
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...Stanley. Sitting at the table, she asks if the two guests have already left, and Petey confirms that they have. “Oh, what a shame,” she says. After a moment, she asks... (full context)