Petey Boles is the owner of the rundown boarding house in which the play takes place. He is 60 years old and married to Meg. Petey works a deckchair attendant at an unspecified seaside resort near his home on the shores of England.
As the play continues, Petey’s character is revealed to be more astute. He realizes that Goldberg and McCann are more insidious than they seem, and probably knows of his wife and Stanley's strange relationship. While Petey seems to know quite a lot more than he lets on, he ultimately reveals that he will do little to compromise the comfortable, delusional existence he shares with Meg.
Meg Boles is a kind woman who helps run the boardinghouse. She is sixty years old and married to Petey in a seemingly childless marriage. Absentminded and simplistic, Meg often asks repetitive questions and constantly requires attention. While she does carry on a sexually-tinged relationship with Stanley, Meg lives a rather humdrum life that allows her to maintain certain delusions about her attractiveness and popularity, delusions which she works hard to protect even as the play goes to darker places.
Nat Goldberg, also called “Simey” and “Benny,” is a Jewish gentleman who works for an unnamed "organization" that has employed him to take Stanley away from the boardinghouse. He is defined by his outwardly polite and suave demeanor, which stands in stark contrast to that of his associate McCann. However, he ultimately reveals an angry, violent streak beneath this suave demeanor.
Goldberg's problems seem to be connected to his past - he is nostalgic about family, and waxes poetic about the old days. To what extent these delusions explain and/or feed his anger and violence are left to the reader's imagination.
Dermot McCann is an Irish member of an unnamed "organization" that has hired him to take Stanley away from the boardinghouse. Unlike Goldberg, who uses words and charm to his advantage, McCann is a paragon of bodily aggression. He lacks much social skill, and is something of a simpleton.
A young woman in her twenties, Lulu is an acquaintance of Meg’s and a visitor to the boardinghouse. She is childish and flirtatious, and though she seems initially interested in Stanley, she is easily attracted to Goldberg's charms. Her girlish qualities become ironically unsettling after she is sexually assaulted.
Stanley Webber is ostensibly the protagonist of the play. He is the only boarder at the Boles's boardinghouse, and is initially defined by laziness, unkemptness, and smug cruelty towards Meg. The many details of his past are never confirmed - he might be a musician, might have been famous, etc. - although there is a sense that he has sins unatoned for. His aggressive depression transitions into a nervous breakdown when Goldberg and McCann arrive, until he is nothing but a bumbling idiot in Act III.
The Birthday Party Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Birthday Party is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I think it is a bit of both. Comedy of menace," a term coined by critic Irving Wardle, describes a play which paints a realistic picture while creating a subtext of intrigue and confusion, as if the playwright were employing a sleight-of-hand...