What traits of The Theatre of the Absurd do we come across in the play The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter?

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The Birthday Party is an early play of Harold Pinter and is composed at a stage in his career when the shadow of Beckett was looming large on him. If Waiting for Godot is the benchmark for The Theatre of the Absurd, The Birthday Party definitely echoes and responds to it. The absurdist traits in the play are both thematic and structural. Thematically speaking, it deals with the radical dislocation of identity in a world where language hardly communicates anything and is used more as a tool of menace e.g. the interrogation of Stanley by goldberg and Maccan. Pinter does not give us any background information about his characters and this withdrawal leads to unknown motivations behind the actions of the characters--a typical absurdist motif. The theme of isolation and a recluse reiterate through the paly. Inverting the Godot-situation, Stan seems to wait for the Didi-Gogo like pair in Goldberg and Maccan. The two as in Godot in Beckett's play signify beyond everything else, a cynical obsession with the theme of death. Even structurally, Pinter's use of Pause and Silence takes a cue from Beckett and the breakdown of speech that Stanley faces at the end remains an absurdist motif of failed communication and growing alienation. The content-structures of goldberg and Maccan in Stanley's interrogation shows a beyond to rationality. Their questions they ask are literally absurd. Like Beckett in Godot, Pinter in Birthday Party, tantalizes us with multiple symbolic openings as theoretical straitjackets to read the play (e.g. the religious references, the Jewish and the Irish trope etc) but collapses them all in an exceedingly open-ended indeterminacy, which houses the absurdist point of emphasis.

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