The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter | Summary

The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter | Summary

The Birthday Party was Pinter’s first full-length play. Prior to this, he had written a one-act play called The Room. At almost the same time he had written another one act-play, The Dumb Waiter. The first performance of The Birthday Party took place at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge, on 28th April, 1978. The first performance of this play in London took place at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, on 19th May of the same year. However, the play did not produce a favourable impression and ran for only a week, the total receipts for the week not exceeding three hundred pounds. Most reviewers dismissed the play as a futile effort by the author.

The Birthday Party Summary


Stanley, a Lodger in Meg’s Boarding House

The play opens with a brief conversation between Meg and Petey. Meg is a woman in her sixties while Petey, who is her husband, is of almost the same age. The conversation between the husband and the wife in the moming of a day in summer is quite inconsequential. In fact, the conversation is absolutely superfluous. Meg gives Petey his breakfast and then asks if their lodger, Stanley, has not yet come downstairs for his breakfast. Stanley Webber, a man in his late thirties, has been staying in the boarding house of Petey and Meg for about a year. Meg is in charge of this boarding house situated in a town close to the sea, while her husband Petey works as a deck-chair attendant on the sea-beach. Meg has become very fond of her lodger, Stanley, and feels very happy when taking a cup of tea to him in his room upstairs or when serving him his breakfast. She is also proud of her boarding house which, she claims is on the approved list of boarding houses. Meg’s behaviour towards Stanley is such as to indicate that, while she looks after him with a motherly concern, yet she has a desire to become his mistress or perhaps, is already his mistress. She may thus be regarded as a mother-cum-mistress to Stanley, even though Stanley’s manner of talking to her is somewhat brusque.

Stanley, an Ex-Pianist, Not Working at Present

Meg recalls those days when Stanley used to play the piano on the pier to entertain the sea-bathers. In those days Stanley was a member of a concert party which held regular concerts on the pier. But now for some time past Stanley has been doing nothing. Stanley is not only out of work now but he hardly ever goes out of doors. Meg urges Stanley to start playing piano again but Stanley replies that he does not have a piano of his own. He then tells her that a very good job has been offered to him as a pianist and that soon he would be leaving this place and going to join a concert party which is expected to tour all the big cities of Europe.

The Relationship Between Meg and Stanley

There is some inconsequential talk between Meg and Stanley also. Stanley comments unfavourably upon the breakfast which Meg serves to him, though at the same time Stanley acknowledges the fact that he would be nowhere without the services which Meg renders to him. Stanley expresses his dissatisfaction not only with the breakfast but with the room which he is occupying and with the whole set-up of this boarding house. He refers to the whole establishment as “a pigsty” and says that his room needs sweeping, Meg, getting into an amorous mood, says that she has had some lovely afternoons in that room, implying perhaps that she has been carrying on some sort of flirtation there with Stanley. Meg is like a mother to Stanley, but she also behaves as if she were at the same time his mistress.

Stanley’s Account of His Past Experiences as a Pianist

Meg now informs Stanley that two visitors are expected to come to this boarding house. Stanley asks in a state of surprise who the two visitors are and why they want to come to this boarding house. Meg explains that the two men had met Petey on the beach on the previous night and that they had told him that they were looking for some accommodation in this town. Stanley’s curiosity about the two expected visitors is aroused and he asks Meg all sorts of questions about them though Meg is in no position to answer these questions because she knows hardly anything about those men who want to come and stay here. Stanley gives Meg an account of a successful solo musical concert which he had on the one occasion given in the London locality of Lower Edmonton. He says that his concert had proved to be an enormous success, but that another concert which he had wanted to give on a subsequent occasion proved a complete fiasco. Some people had become hostile to him and had so arranged things that his second concert could not be held. Those people had wanted to humiliate him and to bring him down to his knees. From the account which Stanley gives to Meg, it is not at all clear why some people had turned against Stanley. The account which he gives to Meg of one successful and another unsuccessful concert, has thus something mysterious about it. It is Meg’s wish that Stanley should not leave her and the boarding house but should continue staying here.

Stanley, Feeling Perturbed. Meg, Nervous too

Meg’s information about the expected arrival of two men at this boarding house has mentally perturbed Stanley. Why, we do not understand. Now Stanley takes revenge upon Meg by giving her a brief account of some people who would be coming on this very day in a van and bringing with them a wheel-barrow in which they would take away a dead body from this place. Meg feels very nervous on hearing Stanley’s brief account of what, according to his information, will happen in the course of the day. Meg feels nervous because it seems to her that those people might be bringing a wheel-barrow in order to carry her own dead body away from this boarding house.

Stanley, Not Interested in Lulu, a Young Girl

A next-door neighbour of Meg now comes to see Meg. This neighbour is a young girl by the name of Lulu. She is carrying a parcel. Meg is going out of the house to do a bit of shopping. So she asks Lulu to put the parcel on the sideboard in the living-room. When Meg is gone, Lulu enters into a conversation with Stanley. Lulu offers to go with Stanley out of doors in order to have a kind of picnic with him. Evidently, Lulu feels attracted by Stanley and would like to strike up a friendship with him. But Stanley shows no interest in Lulu, whereupon Lulu goes away, saying that he is a bit of a “washout”.

The Arrival or Goldberg and McCann to Carry Out an Assignment

The two expected visitors now arrive at the boarding-house. Meg, as we know, has gone out shopping. Stanley, on seeing the two strangers, slips out of the house through the back door. The two men enter the boarding house and make themselves quite comfortable. The two men are Goldberg, a Jew in his fifties, and McCann, an Irishman, aged about thirty. A conversation begins between the two men. McCann addresses Goldberg as “Nat” which seems to be Goldberg’s first name. Goldberg compliments McCann on being a very competent man. McCann offers his thanks to Goldberg for his kindness and for the favours Goldberg has in the past done to him. It seems that the two men have come here to accomplish some mission and that they have been sent here by some organization whom they are serving. McCann is feeling somewhat nervous about the kind of job which he and Goldberg are expected to do here. However, Goldberg tries to soothe McCann’s feelings by assuring him that, even though the job to be done may be hazardous, McCann and Goldberg have no reason to fear because their doing the job would not in any way harm them personally.

Goldberg’s suggestion About a Birthday Party for Stanley

Meg now returns from her shopping and enters into a conversation with her two guests who ask her all sorts of questions about her present lodger whose name, she tells them, is Stanley Webber and who has been staying here for a year or so. Meg says that it is Stanley’s birthday today, whereupon Goldberg suggests that they should all give a party to Stanley on this occasion, promising to make all the necessary arrangements. Meg feels delighted by the idea of the party, and says that she would put on her party dress for the occasion. It is agreed that the next door neighbour, Lulu, should also be invited to the party.

Meg’s Birthday Present to Stanley

When the two men have been escorted upstairs to the room which has been assigned to them, Stanley comes back to the house and begins to ask Meg all sorts of questions about who those men are, though she can provide precious little information to him about them. She then tells Stanley that it is his birthday today and that she has brought a present for him. Stanley looks surprised on being told that it is his birthday. Evidently he himself has not been aware of the fact that it is his birthday. Meg then opens the parcel which Lulu had placed on the sideboard. She takes out a drum from the parcel and tells Stanley that this drum is her birthday present to him. It is a boy’s drum, a kind of toy-drum. Perhaps Meg has given a drum to Stanley because Stanley has no piano to play upon. Stanley puts the drum round his neck and begins to play on it with the two drumsticks. At first Stanley plays on the drum gently and in slow rhythm. Then he begins to go round the table, playing on the drum in the same regular manner. Suddenly, however, his beating of the drum becomes irregular and loud. Then he begins to bang the drum-sticks with great force, without any rhythm. He is now beating the drum in a savage manner as if he is under the influence of some evil spirit. And here Act I ends.


Stanley, Informed By McCann of the Proposed Birthday Party

The time is the evening of the same day. The scene is the same, that is, the living-room of Meg’s boarding house. McCann is alone in the room when Stanley, who had gone out in order to avoid the two visitors, returns. McCann introduces himself to Stanley who has all the time been feeling apprehensive about the purpose and the motive of the visit of these two men. McCann tries to speak to Stanley in a friendly manner but Stanley does not respond to this show of friendliness. McCann informs him that a birthday party has been arranged for him and will take place at night. Stanley does not feel enthusiastic about the proposed birthday party and, in fact, denies that it is his birthday today, saying that his birthday will fall in the next month. Stanley says that he is not in the mood for a party and that he would just be going out again. Stanley expresses the view that a birthday party is merely an occasion to get drunk. McCann begins to whistle an Irish tune “The Mountains of Morne,” and Stanley joins McCann in whistling it. Stanley then asks who are the guests invited to the birthday party. McCann replies that a young lady, (meaning Lulu) and McCann’s companion, who had come with him to this boarding house, would be among the guests besides McCann himself, and that all the preparations for the party have been made.

Stanley’s Effort to Win McCann’s Goodwill

Stanley then says that he has a feeling that he has met McCann before. Stanley says that he had lived all his life in the town of Maidenhead and that he had been leading a very quiet and peaceful life. He had been very happy at home in that town and it was only because of certain business compulsions that he had come to this place where he has been detained for a longer period than he had expected to stay. Stanley says that he would again be going back soon to his home town because there is no place better than home. When Stanley asks what McCann is doing here, McCann replies that he and his friend are here on a short holiday. Stanley says that they have chosen the wrong place for a stay because this house is not a boarding house at all and that the lady of this house is not in her right mind. He asks McCann whether McCann’s companion has told him anything about the real purpose of their visit to this place. He then unwittingly contradicts himself and says that all the years he had lived in the town of Basingstoke. (Only a little earlier he had said that he had lived all his life in the town of Maidenhead) Having judged that McCann is an Irishman, Stanley now begins to talk admiringly about Ireland and the Irish people in order to win McCann’s goodwill. Stanley says that he loves Ireland and that he admires and trusts the Irish people because they respect the truth and because they have a sense of humour. Stanley then invites McCann to go with him to the nearby pub and have a glass of beer with him, but just then Goldberg and Petey enter.

Goldberg’s Talk About His Younger Days

Petey introduces Goldberg to Stanley, and Goldberg expresses his pleasure at having met Stanley. Goldberg then says that, when he was a young fellow, he used to go every Friday for a walk with a girl for whom he had a great admiration. After finishing his walk, when he returned home, his mother used to ask him to eat his dinner before it got cold. His mother, who used to address him as “Simey,” would give him an excellent piece of cooked fish to eat. Petey now says that he would not be able to join the birthday party in honour of Stanley because he has to go to his club in order to play chess with his friends. Stanley’s Vain Attempt to send the Two Men Away

When Petey leaves, Goldberg starts a conversation with Stanley even though Stanley would not like to have anything to do with either Goldberg or McCann, Stanley now pretends that he is the manager of this boarding house and tells Goldberg that, truly speaking, there is no room available in this place and that it is by a sheer mistake that Goldberg and McCann have been given a room by Meg. Stanley says that the room which they have occupied had been reserved for somebody else and that they should go and look for some other accommodation. Seeing the bottles of liquor which McCann has brought under Goldberg’s instructions, Stanley says that this boarding house does not have a license to serve drinks or to permit drinking. Stanley once again asks the two men to leave this place and to take away their bottles of liquor. Goldberg and McCann are, however, in no mood at all to leave. Stanley says that it would not be a good thing for them to start any kind of trouble. The attitude of Goldberg and McCann towards Stanley now becomes somewhat menacing. McCann says that he would kick Stanley if Stanley remains obdurate. When the two men ask Stanley to sit down, Stanley refuses to comply and there is a heated exchange between them and him.

The Interrogation of Stanley, and a Touch of Violence

The conversation now takes a strange turn. Goldberg and McCann begin to interrogate Stanley. This interrogation is based on all kinds of charges and accusations which Goldberg and McCann bring against Stanley, with Stanley either giving irrelevant answers or giving no answers at all. For instance, Goldberg asks why Stanley is wasting everybody’s time and why he is getting in everybody’s way. Goldberg asks why Stanley treats that young lady (Lulu) as if she were a leper. McCann asks why Stanley had left the organization” and why Stanley had betrayed “them”. Goldberg says that Stanley has been playing a dirty game. McCann repeats that Stanley had betrayed the organization. Goldberg then asks McCann to take off Stanley’s glasses McCann snatches Stanley’s glasses, and Stanley has to clutch the chair in order not to stumble and fall down. Goldberg then calls Stanley “a fake” and asks what Stanley had done to his wife. McCann says that Stanley had killed his wife. Goldberg asks why Stanley had killed his wife. Stanley can merely say: “What wife ” Goldberg then asks why Stanley had never got married McCann says that the woman whom Stanley was to marry had waited for him at the church but that Stanley had not turned up for the marriage and had left the girl in the lurch. Goldberg asks if Stanley recognizes the existence of an external force in this universe, a force which is responsible for human beings and which suffers for their sake. He next asks Stanley if the number 846 is “possible” or “necessary”. He then asks where Stanley’s debauchery will lead him. McCann asks what Stanley has to say about Ireland. Goldberg asks who had watered the wicket in Melbourne in 1955. Goldberg now asks why the chicken crossed the road. McCann asks whether the chicken came first or the egg came first. These questions continue till, Stanley, feeling desperate, kicks Goldberg in the stomach. McCann picks up a chair and is about to attack Stanley with it but is prevented from doing so by Goldberg.

Stanley’s Predicament Under the Interrogation

The many questions which the two men ask Stanley are not in any way connected with one another; there is no logic behind these questions, some of the questions contradict each other, and the questions are of a mixed and miscellaneous kind of which nobody would be able to make head or tail. Stanley at this point can only utter incoherent grunts from his throat, so bad is his condition under the questioning by the two men.

A Toast, Proposed to Stanley’s Health by Meg

At this point Meg appears on the scene and the two men, who had been on the verge of thrashing Stanley, pretend as if nothing unusual was happening. Goldberg pays a compliment to Meg on the pretty dress which she has put on for the birthday party. The bottles of whisky are now opened, and liquor is served to every one. McCann drinks only Irish whisky, and so he opens a bottle of Irish whisky for himself. Goldberg suggests that Meg should propose a toast to Stanley’s health on the occasion of Stanley’s birthday. Meg makes a brief but sentimental speech saying that there is nothing in the world that she would not do for Stanley, that he is the only Stanley” she knows, and that she knows him better than anybody else in the world knows him. Meg feels overwhelmed by her sentiment of affection for Stanley, and begins to sob. Goldberg says that she has made a beautiful speech.

A Speech by Goldberg

Just then Lulu, who had been invited to the birthday party but who has got late, arrives to attend the party. Goldberg introduces himself to her as “Nat Goldberg”. She is given a drink, and then everybody is asked to be ready to drink to Stanley’s health. Now it is Goldberg who makes a speech. He says that he feels highly gratified to learn, from Meg’s speech, that there is still a lot of true affection left in this world. He says that he is really surprised by the genuineness of the sentiments which the lady of the house has expressed for Stanley. Lucky is the man, says Goldberg, who is the object of so much affection. The lady of the house, says Goldberg, has extended the sum total of her devotion to a member of her own living race.” Goldberg then offers his hearty congratulations to Stanley on his birthday.

Stanley, Felicitated. Goldberg’s Reminiscence

At the end of Goldberg’s speech everybody drinks to Stanley’s health. Lulu says that Goldberg has made a wonderful speech. Meg kisses Stanley and says: “Many happy returns of the day, Stan.” The others too wish Stanley a happy birthday. Lulu tells Goldberg that he is a marvellous speaker. He tells her that his first chance to deliver a speech came at the Ethical Hall, Bayswater (a London locality), and that he had on that occasion spoken on “The Necessary and the possible”. Goldberg says that his first speech had produced a terrific effect. Goldberg then asks Lulu to come and sit on his lap, and she readily complies. Everybody is now drinking whisky. Meg does not even mind mixing Scotch whisky with McCann’s Irish whisky, Goldberg. who is once again in a reminiscent mood, speaks of how he used to go out for a walk through the park and used to say “hello” to the little boys and little girls on the way. When he returned from his walk, his wife who, like his mother, used to address him as “Simey” would shout to him to take his dinner before it got cold. She used to give him an excellent dinner. But his wife had died and the funeral, which she got, had been a splendid affair, says Goldberg.

Everybody in a Reminiscent Mood

Under the influence of drink, Meg also gets into a reminiscent mood. She tells McCann that her father had wanted to take her to Ireland but had not actually done so. She recalls that there used to be a night-light in her room when she was a little girl, and that her room was pink with a pink carpet and pink curtains. Her father, she says, was a very big doctor. Meg now asks McCann to give her a little more whisky, McCann fills her glass, at the same time singing a line from an Irish song. Meg says that McCann has a lovely voice, whereupon Goldberg asks McCann to sing a song. Lulu wants a love song but McCann sings a patriotic song about the beauty of Ireland. It is a song which shows that McCann is home-sick and would like to go back to his country. Lulu has all this time been encouraging Goldberg to flirt with her. She has said to him: “I’ve always liked older men. They can soothe you.” She also now says that Goldberg closely resembles the first man with whom she had ever fallen in love. Lulu also gets into a reminiscent mood, and she asks Goldberg if he had known her when she was a little girl.

Blind Man’s Buff. Stanley, Prevented From Strangling Meg

Meg now suggests that they should play a game. It is decided that they should play blind man’s buff. At first Meg is blindfolded and, when she has touched McCann, it is McCann’s turn to be blindfolded. McCann touches Stanley, and so it is now Stanley’s turn to be blindfolded. McCann removes Stanley’s glasses before blindfolding him. All this time Goldberg has been fondling Lulu. Now Stanley, who has been blindfolded, begins to move about in order to touch someone. As he walks through the room, his foot is caught in the drum which had been given to Stanley by Meg as a birthday present but which McCann had now put on the floor in Stanley’s path. Stanley keeps moving, with the drum clinging to his foot. Stanley happens to move towards Meg. He then lays his hands upon Meg and begins to strangle her. Goldberg and McCann rush forward and push Stanley away from Meg.

Stanley’s Attempt at Raping Lulu

Suddenly the electric lights go out, and there is a blackout in the room. McCann lights his torch, but his torch falls down from his hands, and the room is again plunged into darkness. Stanley moves towards Lulu in the darkness. Lulu screams and faints. Everybody is now in a state of confusion mingled with terror. After a little while McCann is able to find his torch. When McCann shines the torch, Lulu is seen lying spread-eagled on the table, with Stanley bending over her. As soon as the light of the torch falls upon Stanley, he begins to giggle. Goldberg and McCann move towards him, but he moves away from them. At last Stanley stands with his back against the wall, while Goldberg and McCann advance towards him threateningly. It appears that Stanley had tried to rape Lulu in the darkness, Goldberg and McCara now pounce upon Stanley, as it were. And here Act II ends.


Stanley, Subjected to Inhuman Treatment

How Goldberg and McCann deal with Stanley after seizing him is not depicted on the stage nor described to us. But from what happens subsequently we can imagine that the two men have dealt with Stanley in a most brutal and inhuman manner. Petey who was not present at the birthday party and had returned from the club late in the night had formed some vague idea that Stanley was being subjected to some kind of torture. Next morning Petey is reading his newspaper as usual, while Meg, who is having a headache on account of her drinking heavily on the previous night, tells her husband that she has no cornflakes and no bread in the house and that she can therefore serve no breakfast to him or to Stanley. Meg finds the drum (which she had given to Stanley as a birthday present) lying broken. The sight of the broken drum saddens her, but Petey tells her that she can always buy another. Meg says that she would be going out very soon in order to buy something for breakfast

A Big Black Car

When Meg opens the door and is going out, she stops suddenly and turns to Petey. She asks him where that big black car parked outside has come from. Petey informs her that this car belongs to Goldberg. Meg asks Petey if there is a wheel-barrow in the car. This question surprises Petey and he says that there is no reason why Goldberg should have a wheel-barrow in his car. Meg feels greatly relieved to leam that. Meg is about to go out when Goldberg comes down from upstairs, Goldberg says that Meg makes a very nice cup of tea. Meg asks if Stanley is coming downstairs also. Goldberg replies that on a lovely sunny day like this Stanley would certainly come downstairs. Meg asks if Goldberg is going for a ride in his car, Goldberg gives no reply to this question but says that it is a good old car which has never let him down.

Stanley Suffering from a Nervous Breakdown, According to Goldberg

When Meg has gone out shopping. Goldberg tells Petey that Meg is a charming woman and that his own mother and his wife were equally charming. Petey asks how Stanley is feeling this morning. Goldberg replies that only a qualified doctor can tell exactly how Stanley is feeling. Petey says that Stanley’s condition last night was pitiable. Goldberg says that the birthday celebration has proved too much for Stanley and that Stanley was having a nervous breakdown. Petey asks if Stanley would get all right. Goldberg replies that it is possible that Stanley might already have recovered. Petey says that, if by lunch-time Stanley does not recover, he would go and get hold of a doctor. Goldberg tells Petey not to bother about a doctor because everything has been taken care of. It is not clear what Goldberg exactly means by this.

McCann, Feeling Uneasy

McCann too now comes downstairs. McCann is in a nervous state. He tells Goldberg that he would not go up to Stanley in his room any more. However, McCann also says that Stanley is now quiet and is no longer talking. Goldberg asks if Stanley would soon be ready to leave. McCann replies that Goldberg should himself go upstairs and find out. McCann also says that he has given Stanley’s broken glasses back to Stanley (McCann had deliberately broken Stanley’s glasses in the course of the game, blind man’s buff.) Petey now goes into the garden in order to take a look at his peas.

Goldberg, Feeling Shaken

Goldberg, like McCann, is also feeling nervous about something. He tells McCann that it is very unusual for him to have such a feeling of uneasiness, He says that all his life long he has maintained very good health. When McCann happens to address Goldberg as “Simey”, Goldberg feels enraged and says: “Never call me that.” Evidently, Goldberg does not want that the name by which his mother and his wife used to call him should be used by anybody else. Goldberg then tells McCann that all his life he has been following certain principles and that he is a self-made man who has never infringed any of the rules of the game of life. He says that his father at his death-bed had given him some very sound advice. One item in that advice was that one should never forget one’s family because the family is the rock, the constitution, and the core.” But it is evident that Goldberg, though he is trying to talk in a tone of self-confidence, is really feeling shaken by the events of the last night. In fact, it seems that he himself is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. At one point he cannot even complete a sentence because his thinking falters and he does not know what to say. “Because I believe that the world……,” he says but is unable to complete the sentence and feels lost. He feels completely deprived of his strength and vitality, and asks McCann to blow into his mouth to enable him to breathe properly. Soon, however, Goldberg recovers enough of his strength to be able to talk coherently again.

Lulu, Seduced By Goldberg During the Night

Lulu now appears. She complains that Goldberg had taken undue advantage of her last night and had seduced her. Goldberg pokes fun at Lulu, and speaks in a sarcastic manner to her. McCann joins Goldberg in ridiculing Lulu. Lulu beats a hasty retreat, and goes away before the two men do any further harm to her.

Stanley’s Nervous Breakdown; and a Second Session of Brain-Washing

Stanley now comes downstairs. He is completely changed in appearance. He is well-dressed, and is clean shaven. He holds his broken spectacles in his hand. But his smart-appearance is deceptive because he seems to have suffered a considerable damage to his mind. When Goldberg asks him how he is feeling, he stares blankly at the floor. Goldberg and McCann then subject Stanley to another brain-washing exercise. Speaking alternately, the two men overwhelm him with a heavy shower of statements, making all kinds of promises and giving him all kinds of assurances to ensure a golden future for him. However, Stanley does not show any reaction to these promises and inducements. In fact, he is in no position to react because most probably he does not understand much of what they are saying, Stanley’s mental faculty seems at this time to be paralyzed, and he can only produce gurgling sounds from his throat.

Stanley, Taken Away by Goldberg and McCann

Petey, who has gone out for a few minutes, now comes back. He is surprised to see the two men trying to take Stanley away with them. When asked by Petey where they are taking Stanley, Goldberg replies that they are taking him to Monty because Stanley needs special treatment. Petey says that he will himself bring a doctor for Stanley if necessary. But Goldberg insists that Stanley needs special treatment and that Monty is the best available specialist. When Petey still persists that Stanley should be allowed to stay where he is, Goldberg suggests menacingly, that Petey should also go with him. Petey now realizes his helplessness. However, Petey tries to speak encouragingly to Stanley, saying: “Stan, don’t let them tell you what to do.” Goldberg and McCann then leave, taking Stanley with them, while Petey can only stare at the departing figures.

Meg, Not Informed by Petey of Stanley’s Departure

A few moments later, the sound of a car starting is heard. The two men have departed, taking Stanley with them. Petey picks up the newspaper and begins to read it, when Meg returns from her shopping. Meg asks if the two men have gone away and whether they will come back for lunch. Petey tells her that the men would not come back for lunch. Meg does not have the least notion that the two men have taken away Stanley too with them. She asks Petey where Stanley is, and whether Stanley is still in bed. Petey does not want to give his wife a shock by telling her the truth. So he replies that Stanley is still asleep. Meg says that Stanley would get late for his breakfast. But Petey says: “Let him sleep.”

Meg’s Claim: The Belle of the Ball

Meg, who is in her usual cheerful mood, tells Petey that the party last night was a lovely one and that he should have been there to participate in the singing, dancing, and the games which were played. She then says that everybody at the party had agreed that she was the belle of the ball” meaning that she was the most admired woman at the dance. (She is, of course, merely flattering herself in making this claim because, though Goldberg had paid some compliments to her, nobody had expressed any opinion about her being the belle of the ball and, in any case, there had been no dancing except a little by Meg herself.)

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