The relevance of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and modern Indian youth.

Abstract:

Harold Pinter (10 October 1930- 24 December 200) was a famous British playwright, screenwriter, actor and director and winner of Nobel Prize. Pinter through his plays influenced twentieth-century literary men.  The Birthday Party (197) was his most popular play. The Birthday Party is his first full-length lay.  It is an expository play where very title The Birthday Party is verifiable. Its characters are contradictory and ambiguous and make it absurd play.

The Birthday Party is a straightforward plot of characters now holed up in a non-decrepit guest house. Behind the surface silence and symbolism, the characters and their dark world, the plot leads to another world: the part of hidden within but we all aspire for it.

Keywords:

1-counselees. 2- addiction. 3- startup. 4- absurd play. 5- polarisation. 6- precious. 7- drugs. 8- Bollywood. 9- stakeholders. 10- endeavour. 11- Urbanisation. 12- industrialisation.

Introduction:

The Birthday Party is a highly relevant play to all the ages and people. It is a deeply political play with the character’s resistance for survival and identity. It is also a private play in nature where characters struggle to find out the vanished world.  The puppeteers or the jokers of the church-state machinery, Pinter’s description of a metaphor of a weird party dealing in life and death.

Famous play The Birthday Party by noted playwright Harold Pinter is highly relevant to modern  Indian youth. Like the 4G generation youth, they have all the modern gadgets but hallow inside.  It is destroying them but they fail to realise that destruction.  They are not reading this message, despite seeing the devastation every day.

Famous play The Birthday Party by noted playwright Harold Pinter is highly relevant to modern  Indian youth. Like the 4G generation youth, they have all the modern gadgets but hallow inside.  It is destroying them but they fail to realise that destruction.  They are not reading this message, despite seeing the devastation every day.

MEG. Is it good?

PETEY. Not bad.

MEG. What does it say?

PETEY. Nothing much.

MEG. You read me out some nice bits yesterday.

(The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter, Faber and Faber, London, Act-I, p.10. Hereafter refers as The Birthday Party.)

There are many counselees to guide such confused youth but all have failed as if the message has even reached to them.  All the youth lost in phones, playing video games,  watching senseless videos, chatting with aimless friends, discussing booze parties,  commenting on social media, just scrolling the pictures of hot celebrities, etc.  They fail to understand that life is very important and it is about their happy future.  Life cannot be seen in phones.  This is the luckiest generation in India that has access to smart-phones and easy data and they are wasting life on it.

MEG. I knew it was.

PETEY. (Turning to her). Oh, Meg, two men came up to me on the beach last night.

MEG. Two men?

PETEY. Yes. They wanted to know if we could put them up for a couple of nights.

MEG. Put them up here.

(The Birthday Party, p-13).

Check their time, which often averages 5-7 hours a day or in some cases, more than that for young people wasted on parties and phones. For retired or settled people, it is tolerable but for a young man that has to plan his/ her future life and career, just unimaginable. Almost one-third of their useful working hours or one-third of their life is lost. This addiction of parties, booze is like addiction to drugs and sex, eating away a big part of life. It’s damaging to career scenario and messing up life and thinking. If it stays in this manner, an entire generation will become a spoiled generation, an entire generation addicted to parties, worthless in their life and naive about the society and nation. These are the negative effects of this party addiction.

 

STANLEY. I didn’t sleep at all.

MEG. You didn’t sleep at all? Did you hear that, Petey? Too tired to eat your breakfast, I suppose? Now eat up those cornflakes like a good boy. Go on.

——

—–

—–

PETEY. No, no, I wouldn’t say it was cold.

MEG. What are the cornflakes like, Stan?

STANLEY. Horrible.

MEG.  Those flakes? Those lovely flakes? You’re a liar, a little liar. They’re refreshing. It says so. For the people when they get up late.

STANLEY. The milk’s off.

(The Birthday Party, pp-14-15).

People waste their valuable time on parties, wine and games which could be better utilized in career building and more useful things in life. Envisage saving five hours a day from parties, friends, wine and phone and spending it with family or anything –  like studies, exercise, skill development, job search, startup etc. Think if one did this Imagine if you did this without fail, one would be another Bill Gates or Indian Ambani, Adani, Tata.

Making mindless friends dulls the cognitive brain. The human brain has two parts – cognitive and emotional. The best brain is where both work in harmony. When one indulges in junk, the cognitive brain disengages and is used negatively and used less. Such people cannot reason, think or argue logically and intelligently. The person loses the vision to understand points of views evaluate pros and cons, face multiple situations, or take the quick and right decisions.

Stanley very aptly summons this dilemma of modern youth:

STANLEY. You know what? To look at me, I bet you wouldn’t think I would lead such a quiet life. The lines on my face, eh? It’s the drink. Been drinking a bit down here. But what I mean is…you know how it is…away from your own…all wrong, of course….I’ll be all right when I get back …but what I mean is, the way some people look at me you’d think I was a different person. I suppose I have changed, But I’m still the same man that I       always was. I mean, you wouldn’t think, to look at me, really…I mean, not really, that I                         was the sort of bloke to—-to cause any trouble, would you? (MACCAN look at him) Do you know what I mean?

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT II, p-40).

Emotion brain alone functions as the cognitive brain remains numb. The constant hypes in parties and conversation, the polarisation, the intense liking and disliking, the popularity of certain hot-spot, all point to a confused and muddled generation where the emotional brain is hyperactive, and the reasoning mind is unsound or not used. People who use only the emotional brain don’t generally perform well in life. The only remedy—–stop freezing the brain and use the mind in the best possible things.

Three, regular hours in the parties or with friends kill enthusiasm and energy. Fixed goals and targets ensure success in life and they motivate to work hard to achieve goals. However, wasting time in parties with friends, strangers kill motivations and makes us lazy. Unknowingly, deep inside, depression and fear of failure make space in mind and life and one is not able to concentrate decisively anymore.

STANLEY. You’d better be careful.

GOLDBERG. Webber, what were you doing yesterday?

STANLEY. Yesterday?

GOLDBERG. And the day before. What did you do the day before that?

STANLEY. What do you mean?

GOLDBERG. Why are you wasting everybody’s time Webber? Why are you getting in everybody’s way?

STANLEY. Me. What are you——-

GOLDBERG. I’m telling you, Webber. You’re a washout. Why are you getting on everybody’s nick? Why are you driving that old lady off her conk?

MACCAN. He likes to do it.

GOLDBERG. Why do you behave so badly? Webber? Why do you force that old man out to play chess?

STANLEY. Me?

GOLDBERG. Why do you treat that young lady like a leaper? She’s not a leaper Webbner?

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT II, pp-47-48).

To cope with this problem one should try to go for self introspect why one failed in life. People should try to find out the weaknesses and —bad party goers, bad past friends, parties, institutions, relatives, businesses, professions which are villain responsible for one’s life not being what it ought to be. They must understand, life is very precious and the world is very complex. However, wasting time on parties, booze, get-together and dates won’t help in life. Managing time and working for the self-will.

Youth should stop complaining. Learn creativity and positivity Design a happy and better life for your and family and be a better person. Think about whether doing best and maximum? Are you working maximum as it possibly can? Shun those pitiful parties away until you get something of your life. Remember, winners, find a suitable way out of every difficulty. So, I can too.

GOLDBERG. Which came first?

MACCAN. Chicken? Egg? Which came first?

GOLDBERG and MACCAN. Which came first?  Which came first?  Which came first?

STANLEY screams.

GOLDBERG. He doesn’t know. Do you know your own face?

MACCAN. Wake him up. Stick a needle in his eye.

GOLDBERG. You’re a plague, Webbber. You are an overthrow.

MACCAN. You’re what’s left!

GOLDBERG. But we’ve got the answer to you. We can sterilise you.

MACCAN. What about Drogheda?

GLDBERG. Your bite is dead. Only your pong is left.

MACCAN. You betrayed our land.

GOLDBERG. Who are you, Webber?

GOLDBERG. What makes you think you exist?

MACCAN. You’re dead.

GOLDBERG, You’re dead. You can’t live, you can’t think, you can’t love. You’re dead. You’re a plague gone bad. There’s no choice in you. You’re nothing but an odour!

Silence. They stand over him. He is crouched in the chair. He looks up slowly and kicks    GOLDBERG  in the stomach. GOLDBERG falls. STANLEY stands. MACCAN seizes a        chair and lifts it above his head. STANLEY seizes a chair and covers his head with it.                MACCAN and STANLEY circle.

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT II, p-52) .

Unlike drugs, parties are legal. Only a fat purse is needed. Time and resources are immensely important—for life, career, and happiness. It is very difficult to earn. But it can also destroy a person if not used properly and even an entire generation, which today’s world is witnessing. For it is the people where they want to go. Imagine the people and our elders those have very thin recourses but gave pleasures to this new generation. How cool and sensible were they? They were struggling to make us happy.

Think about past generations. The people cared for welfare issues. Today, do people care about what truly impacts society? Or do they genuinely and emotionally react to needs based on how important, essential, precious or senseless it is? The super significant and urgent priority is to make us happy safe and successful. Some people are highly successful than others. Google pictures the empires and acts of such people to the world. Everyone should do so much to attain that. People should focus on that. We should not show the hollow pomp and show. People should focus on life and career and they should not waste time on never-ending parties and loitering on the seashores flirting with the opposite sex. They are just fake thrillers like Bollywood nonsensical thrillers.

GOLDBERG. We’ll make a man of you.

MACCAN. And a woman.

GOLDBERG. You’ll be re-oriented.

MACCAN. You’ll be rich.

GOLDBERG. You’ll be adjusted.

MACCAN. You’ll be our pride and joy.

GOLDBERG.  You’ll be a mench.

MACCAN. You’ll be a success.

GOLDBERG. You’ll be integrated.

MACCAN. You’ll be given an order.

GOLDBERG.  You’ll make decisions.

MACCAN. You’ll be a magnate.

GOLDBERG. A statesman.

MACCAN. You’ll own yachts.

GOLDBERG. Animals.

MACCAN. Animals.

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT III, p-83-84)

People of today, have to decide the issues and questions pertaining to their lives and happiness. No economist, no reformist, no preacher, no leader, no party, no outing will do it for anybody. Think about yourself and your future where you want to move. Don’t misuse your time and resources to make you poor and fail. Aim to make yourself and your family successful and contented. Forget about parties, friends, sex, outing and engage your mind in creative and productive ways and things and be an achiever and giver to the family and society.

Be the people that forge you ahead. Don’t end up as the forgotten people. These parties are made for television shows. However, people chase them for years. When an academician boldly exposed the mind of the people, asking them basic aims of life, to which they gave very non-serious and clueless answers, nobody should have been shocked. For all the antecedents essential to lead up to this feeble situation have been on packed exhibit for years and decades.

LULU. ( with growing anger). You used me for a night. a passing fancy.

GOLDBERG. Who used who?

LULU. You made use of me by cunning when my defences were down.

GOLDBERG. Who took them down?

LULU. That’s what you did. You quenched your ugly thrust. You taught me things a girl shouldn’t know before she’s been married at least three times.

GOLDBERG. Now you’re a jump ahead! What are you complaining about?

Enter MACCAN quickly.

LULU. You didn’t appreciate me for myself. You took all those liberties only to satisfy your appetite. Oh, Nat, why did you do it?

GOLDBERG. You wanted me to do it. Lulula, so I did it.

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT III, p- 80)

Everybody must have seen the annual scenes of hordes of New Year’s party-goers, people and relatives climbing the boundary several meters high outer walls in order to enjoy the party without the entry charges. And though most visible in every part of the word, no single place can be singled out where this happens. It is very unfortunate that on this issue nobody is trying to counsel the people which is become more and more common. Whenever something wrong happens, but with some repentance, and statement of a partial policing.

” The nature of language and dialogue is also central to the theme of menace in The Birthday Party (1958). The dramatic image of Pinter’s play is based on the individual search for security in a world filled with unease, fear, and lack of understanding between people (Esslin, 1963). The uneasiness and anxiety in The Birthday Party (1958) arise from the threat of invasion from the outside menacing world. ”

(‘The Written Word’, by Natasha O’Brien, Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party).

Harold Pinter has raised a very serious issue and the decline in particular which has been evident from social appalling and depressive statistics, not to reveal the government’s reactions to this problem. The most infamous incidents of such type debacle are by now very widely known. Nobody can blame or rank any country on top or exclusive.

There can be no excuse for risking life. The excuse given by the governments was that since they have to generate the revenue and create employment, necessary for all the countries and their economy. Socio-cultural harmony between the people and nations is another reason for such parties. But that hardly explains the discontent performance by people in all parts of the world. There is an isolated example. Year after year, believable national and international stakeholders expose such alarming party scenario.

STANLEY ( to himself). I had a unique touch. Absolutely unique. They came up to me.     They came up to me and said they were grateful. The champagne we had that night, the          lot.    (Pause.) My father nearly came down to hear me. Well, I dropped him a card anyway.                But I don’t think he could make it. No, I—-I lost the address, that was it. (Pause.) Yes.      Lower Edmonton. Then after that, you know what they did? They carved me up. Carved me up. It was all arranged, it was all worked out. My next concert. Somewhere else it was. In winter. In went down there to play. Then, when I got there, the hall was closed,    the place was shuttered up, not even a caretaker. They’d locked it up. ( Takes off his          glasses and wipes them on his pyjama jacket.) A fast one. They pulled a fast one. I’d like to know who was responsible for that. (Bitterly) All right, Jack, I can take a trip. They want me to crawl down on my bended knees. Well, I can take a tip…any day of the week.               ( He replaces his glasses, then looks at MEG.) Look at her. You’re just an old piece of rock cake, aren’t you? (He rises and leans across the table to her.) That’s what you are,                 aren’t you?

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT I, p-23)

In this gloomy scenario, The Birthday Party of Harold Pinter gives a very apt and necessary message. It is important to recognise the inner strength. In the past 100 years, this has become a big problem in society. In the play, the play write has seen dramatic and fast changes in the behaviour of people and society. There has been a sea change in the attitude of people, new recreational laces, and even the prototype of people. However significant problems have been created., especially among the youth and the neo-rich, such as the fights, rapes and even deaths in many cases.

“Under Dermott McCann’s heavy-handed interrogation and Bennie Goldberg’s fascist scrutiny, little Stanley withers. Goldberg and McCann, 50s slurs on Jewish and Irish immigrants, attack their hopeless victim. Scott Wentworth makes a wonderfully threatening and self-important Goldberg, as he sets up the ominous birthday party for Stanley. Cruelty, mystery, and terror rule.”

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ‘SHOCKS WITH POLITICAL ALLEGORY,’ ACT, S.F.  January 22, 2018, Bdhorwitz Harold Pinter’s ‘Common Man’ Manipulated by Mom & Mafia by Barry David Horwitz)

In any way, the majority of the people feel the party and recreation part of life is necessary, but they fail to understand that not sufficient to bring results. There are many other problems to face, not the least of which is the overconsumption of liquor.

A tourism study concluded that one out of every five party-goers is usually had the experience of violence, accident or physical harm. No solution has been proposed for this problem. Even cash incentives for guards, and monitoring with cameras, failed to address this issue, while others have said this is not a big problem to worry.

Harold Pinter’s play The Birthday Party enacts and reflects the middle-class futility of human endeavour in the variety of aspects and laws. The Theater of the Absurd was written well intended which represents a deeper level of conflict in the mind. Its supporters believed making theatre focused sharply on the question of existence. Although its one’s right to choose entertainment as individual liking and disliking However it is also important that parties or any other such activity should transform the individual and the sector in a better way. It is not activism. The reality has been distinctly different.

(Intensely, with growing certainty) My father said to me, Benny, Benny, he said, come here. He was dying. I knelt down. By him day and night. Who else was there? Forgive,          Benny, he said, and let live. Yes, Dad. Go home to your wife. I will, Dad. Keep an eye open for low-lives, for schnorrers and for layabouts. he didn’t mention names. I lost my life in the service of others, he said, I’m not ashamed, Do your duty and ee your observations. Always bid good morning to your neighbours. Never, never forget your family, for they are the rock, the constitution and the core! If you’re ever in any difficulties Uncle Barney will see you in clear. I knelt down. (He kneels, facing MACCAN.) I sore on the good book. And I knew the word I remember—Respect!                 Because of MaCann— (Gently.) Seamus—who came before your father? …(Vacant—triumphant.) Who came before your father’s father’s mother! Your great-gram-granny.

Silence. He slowly rises.

And that’s why I’ve reached my position, McCann. Because I’ve always had as fit as a      fiddle. My motto. Work hard and play hard. Not a day’s illness.

(THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT III, p. 78)

Some of the human rights utopian ideas have already fallen victim to the law of unintended outcomes, such as the lakhs of party-goers die in post-party mayhem. While the intention was to enjoy the life and infrastructure on potentially fly-by-night birds, the results have often been catastrophic for the many unfortunate souls those have nevertheless been expecting far better joys than their well-managed counterparts.

“He has felt that society has not treated him well. What has Stanley done to deserve persecution? The facts of his past are so unclear that his claim to be a pianist may even be false. He feels disgusted with the prevailing customs and conventions of society. He finds it impossible to continue to live amidst such a society. He prefers an isolated existence. He is brutally and inhumanly tortured by the intruders McCann and Goldberg who represent society at large. The society treats such an individualistic artist like Stanley as a danger and pulls him back from his isolation.”

( The Turkish Online Journal of Design, Art and Communication –  ‘UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS OF ABSURDITY IN HERALD PINTER’S THE BIRTHDAY PARTY’ 1-Ahmed Saadon Azeez Al Hammadi, 2-Dheyaa Brer Alwan AL-Salih).

Urbanisation, industrialisation, confusing education, too much freedom and rights and easy money led to this hopelessness and frustration in life and people are always in search of such hollow activities to find happiness and identity. All these things have created the Theatre of Absurd not in literature but in life too. This theatre has been an effect on the loss of spirituality in life.  It is trying to tell a man his true realities of his status. The attitude of modern man towards life is artificial and negative. Characters of Pinter are from ordinary life behaving like everyday humans. Their pains and pleasures are very real but the characters are with real identities. The distinctiveness of The Birthday Party lies in his strange and real way of using common man’s language.

“Pinter’s work is not the product of the “angry playwright” that the popular media chose to designate him as.1 From an early age Pinter himself was engaged in the politics of the world around him, at eighteen he registered as a conscientious objector displaying a disgust at Cold War politics and The Labour Party’s endorsement of American nuclear presence on British soil.2 As a citizen, Pinter became a member of an anti-apartheid organisation and was horrified at the events he saw taking place in Vietnam and South Africa.”

(INQUIRIES, Naomi Garner, 2012, VOL. 4 NO. 02 I PG I 1/4 I (Google)

The real existential dilemma of his characters is the peril to their individual autonomy. The characters are continuously struggling in an existential resist to preserve and show their reality. Despite getting material progress and comforts, they found the life as purposeless and aimless. This is very true to the Western world in post World Wars. The characters of Harold Pinter are true representative of the psychology of modern disturbed man.

GOLDBERG. Lulu, you’re a big bouncy girl. come and sit on my lap.

MACCAN. Why not?

LULU. Do you think I should?

GOLDBERG. Try it.

MEG (sipping). Very nice.

LULU. I’ll bounce up to the ceiling.

MACCAN. I don’t know how you can mix that stuff.

GOLDBERG. Take a chance.

MEG to MACCAN). Sit down on this stool

LULU sits on GOLDBERG’s lap.

MACCAN. This?

GOLDBERG. Comfortable?

LULU. Yes, thanks.

MACCAN (sitting).  It’s comfortable.

GOLDBERG. You know, there’s a lot in your eyes.

Lulu. And in yours too.

( THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT II, p-58)

The Birthday Party did not give any solution to the frustration on the argument that it is a disparaging way to counsel mature man. A section of the people opposes any restriction on their freedom provided to them by the constitution which they observe as excessive and hurtful to individual freedom. But there appears to be little or no governmental appetite to reform them that, especially since freedom and rights are the biggest constitutional and legal rights.

Nevertheless, much is tried to be addressed by Harold Pinter in The Birthday Party, though that characters themselves are facing their own share of problems and controversies and even rapes. Of far more worry should have been that most youth and educated people are involved in this misadventure. But it is good to see that the playwright has tried to highlight the big issue emerging from all areas. The big test remains to address the problem adequately and keep it free of the pressures that are oppressive to them. It is a matter of time to be seen if this point is looking to fiddle or transform.

MEG. Where’s Stan?

Pause.

Is Stan down yet, Petey?

PETEY. No… he’s …

MEG. Is he still in bed?

PETEY. Yes, he’s…still asleep.

MEG. Still? He’ll be late for breakfast.

PETEY. Let him…sleep.

Pause.

MEG. Wasn’t it a lovely party last night?

PETEY. I wasn’t there.

MEG. Weren’t you?

PETEY. I came in afterwards.

MEG. Oh.

Pause.

It was a lovely party. I haven’t laughed as much for years. We had dancing and singing. And games. You should have been there.

( THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ACT III, pp-86-87.)

Reference.

  1. The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter, Faber and Faber Limited, Bloomsbury House, 74-77 Great Russell Street, London.
  2. The Turkish Online Journal of Design, Art and Communication – TOJDAC, ISSN: 2146-5193, March 2018 Special Edition, p. 625-632 ‘UNDERSTANDING THE ELEMENTS OF ABSURDITY IN HERALD PINTER’S THE BIRTHDAY PARTY’ 1-Ahmed Saadon Azeez Al Hammadi, 2-Dheyaa Brer Alwan AL-Salih, 1General Directorate of Education in Babylon / Iraq.
  3. THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, ‘SHOCKS WITH POLITICAL ALLEGORY,’ ACT, S.F. January 22, 2018, Bdhorwitz, Harold Pinter’s ‘Common Man’ Manipulated by Mom & Mafia by Barry David Horwitz
  4. (‘The Written Word’, by Natasha O’Brien, Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party).
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