The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party Quotes and Analysis

"You've missed the point completely, Julia: There were no tigers. That was the point."


Alex says this to Julia in the first scene of the play. It is part of the fizzy cocktail-party banter that makes up the beginning, as the guests seek to fill the silence with stories and anecdotes.

"No, she's not in the pantry."


For a good chunk of the first part of the play, the overarching topic of greatest concern is the absence of Edward’s wife, Lavinia. Julia even goes so far as to suggest this is the first time she’s never seen them together and then goes on to ponder if it can all be explained by Lavinia hiding in the pantry and eavesdropping on the party discourse. Edward tersely but ambiguously relieves her of this notion.

"I must find out who she is, to find out who I am."


On the verge of losing his wife forever, Edward decides he desperately wants her back. He tells the Unidentified Guest that he must have her in his life in order to know more about who he is.

"It is not that I am in love with Lavinia.
I don't think I was ever really in love with her.
If I have ever been in love—and I think that I have—
I have never been in love with anyone but you,
And perhaps I still am. But this can't go on."


In his private conversation with Celia, with whom he has been having an affair, Edward says this. He tells her that he has only ever been in love with her, but that he cannot be with her anymore.

"I know you as well as I know your wife;
And I knew that all you wanted was the luxury
Of an intimate disclosure to a stranger.
Let me, therefore, remain the stranger.
But let me tell you, that to approach the stranger
Is to invite the unexpected, release a new force,
Or let the genie out of the bottle."

Unidentified Guest

The Unidentified Guest says this to Edward after the other party-guests have left. He mysteriously tells him that he knows him as well as he knows his wife, but we cannot tell if he means that he knows them well or not at all. This gives the Guest a kind of ineffable and mystical quality: he is a stranger, but one who knows everything.

"Oh, nothing happened.
But I thought that she really cared about me."


Peter has a private conversation with Edward in which he tells him that he is in love with Celia, but that they have not had an affair of any kind. He talks about how much he admires her and wants to be with her.

"My patients such as you are the self-deceivers
Taking infinite pains, exhausting their energy,
Yet never quite successful."


In talking to Lavinia and Edward in his office in Act 2, Reilly tells them that they are special kinds of patients, not cheaters or dull people, but a couple of people who are prone to deceiving themselves about their issues.

"Like a child who has wandered into a forest
Playing with an imaginary playmate
And suddenly discovers he is only a child
Lost in a forest, wanting to go home."


Celia describes her existential quandary to Reilly by comparing her situation with Edward's. She compares Edward to a lost child in a forest. She feels unfulfilled in the world and now sees her former lover in a less flattering way.

"Do you know it's the first time you've paid me a compliment
Before a party? And that's when one needs them."


In the third act, when the couple seems to be getting along much better than they were, Edward pays Lavinia a compliment on her dress. She is surprised that he is being so kind, and suggests that it was exactly what she needed before the party begins.

"Oh, I'm glad. It's begun."


The end of the play is a beginning, the beginning of the cocktail party that Lavinia and Edward are throwing. This is the very last line of the play, an expression of anticipation and relief.