What aspects of life in the 1950s does Pinter symbolize by the character of Stanley in "Birthday Party"?
The decade spanning the 1950s was a difficult time for Great Britain. The country was in a decline as a world power; its colonies were gaining their independence, it had lost control of the vitally important Suez Canal, and the Irish Republican Army was causing chaos on the domestic front. Not surprisingly, the mood at home was one of doubt, pessimism, helplessness, and rage.
Although the character of Stanley might be interpreted in a number of ways, there is a strong basis for arguing that Stanley symbolizes the impotent hopelessness prevalent during the 1950s in Great Britain. Stanley is witnessing the dissolution of his aspirations; as a musician, he had once hoped to play in great cities, but the best he has managed to do is perform in humble Lower Edmonton, a far cry from the venues of his dreams. Stanley is an anachronism, unemployed, unwanted, and irrelevant to his time. He responds to his condition with incidents of rage, fighting back his inquisitors and, at one point, actually trying to strangle Meg. In the final analysis, however, he must accept whatever fate has in store for him, and, like his beleaguered homeland, he waits with a sense of apathy and resignation.