The Birthday Party


Harold Pinter

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Stanley’s Drum Symbol Analysis

Stanley’s Drum Symbol Icon

The drum that Meg gives to Stanley for his birthday is a clear representation of her fondness for order. When Stanley first unwraps the gift, she urges him to play it, encouraging him as he slings it around his neck and marches in circles about the table, rhythmically banging the drum as he goes. Unsurprisingly, she is delighted to hear him tapping out a beat, since rhythm is made up of patterns and repetitions, and requires the player to enact a sense of control. As such, the drum itself comes to stand for the ways in which the characters in The Birthday Party either adhere to or diverge from the order that Meg wants so badly to institute. As Stanley continues to play, the rhythm grows increasingly erratic until, much to Meg’s horror, he beats the instrument in a “savage” and “possessed” manner. In this way, the drum serves as an early indication that the boarding house’s seemingly controlled environment is about to descend into chaos.

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Stanley’s Drum Symbol Timeline in The Birthday Party

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stanley’s Drum appears in The Birthday Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
...Lulu brought to the house. When he opens it, he sees that it’s a small drum. “It’s a drum,” he says, confused. “A boy’s drum.” Happily, Meg tells him that she... (full context)
Act Two
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...with it. “Steady, McCann,” Goldberg 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)
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...blindfolds Stanley, he takes his glasses, breaks them, and backs away. He then places the drum in Stanley’s path, causing the blinded man to step on it and break through the... (full context)
Act Three
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
...a log” the night before. “Oh, look,” Meg says at one point, picking up Stanley’s drum. “The drum’s broken. Why is it broken?” Hitting it with her hand, she says, “It... (full context)