Why is the play "The Birthday Party" by Harold Pinter absurdist?

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poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Absurdist theatre examines ideas of existentialism and the meaninglessness of human existence. In The Birthday Party, the protagonist, Stanley Webber, has committed "existential transgressions" which are brought to light by the arrival of two men, McCann and Goldberg, at the English boardinghouse where Stanley is hiding out. Stanley's ultimate crime is a crime against the self; he withdraws from the world and is stunningly apathetic.

The absurd psychological interrogation that McCann and Goldberg submit Stanley to causes him to lose his senses and have a breakdown. He becomes complicit in his own role as a victim who cannot control, change, or ignore his fate. His crumbling identity and eventual loss of speech capabilities make a very absurdist statement: life is without purpose and communication is futile.

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crmhaske | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The play The Birthday Party is considered a part of The Theatre of the Absurd because the main character, Stanley Webber, finds himself lost in a nonsensical world that he can't make heads or tails of.  This is the defining feature of absurdist fiction; one or some of the characters are unable to make sense of the nonsensical.  Two people show up claiming its Stanley's birthday, despite his protest and insistence otherwise, and refuse to let him leave his home.  A birthday party begins to unfold as a total nightmare for Stanley eventually rendering him a broken mess.


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