The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party Literary Elements


Drawing Room Comedy, Drama



Setting and Context


Narrator and Point of View


Tone and Mood

Existential, wordy, philosophical, absurdist.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are Edward and Lavinia but there is no character who can be described as being the antagonist. Instead, their incapability to communicate with one another and transmit their feelings is the cause of conflict.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Edward’s desire to find happiness and his desire to have his wife back, by his side. Their marital struggle and struggle to understand one another make up the conflict of the play. A secondary conflict is Celia's search for meaning in the world on her own.


The climax occurs when Edward and Lavinia decide to stay together.


When Edward stumbles upon his own words thinking about what to answer when he is asked about Lavinia, it foreshadows the revelation that Lavinia has left him.


Celia's death and the characters' response to it is rather understated, as they simply mourn it briefly, determine it was inevitable, and move on with their lives.


Allusions to Christianity, psychoanalysis, transhumanism.


Alex's description of Celia's death is a rather grisly bit of imagery.


Reilly is a paradoxical figure, an Unidentified Guest who seems to know everything there is to know about the other characters, and the future. Also paradoxical is the fact that Edward says he does not love his wife and has only ever loved Celia, but then returning to his life with his wife.


There are two parallels drawn in the play: one between Lavinia and Celia and one between Edward and Peter. The pairs are extremely similar and show two different paths the characters could take.


Use of Dramatic Devices

Monologues and absurdist elements.