Pinter's The Homecoming
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Pinter's The Homecoming
Articles and useful revision resources on the play
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What's disturbing?

At the start of studying the play, the class wrote: 

Hippo's insight:

GB wrote: 

The most disturbing part of the play is when Joey enters the room, and upon seeing Lenny kissing Ruth, declares ‘she’s wide open’ and then proceeds to take her arm and kiss her in turn. This is disturbing not only because Teddy’s brothers are kissing his wife, but the fact that they are doing it directly in front of him and while he is watching, Max asks him when will he be coming over again as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. While this scene could easily be interpreted as being funny, the sexism and misogyny behind Joey’s statement as well as him declaring her to be ‘a tart’ implies that to him, women have no value beyond sex. The casual way that Lenny and Joey share Ruth is also deeply disturbing because it goes against the monogamist norm that society readily accepts for married women and makes the whole event deeply uncomfortable. 

Hippo's comment, November 12, 2014 9:38 AM
CS wrote: “If you take the glass… I’ll take you.”
Page 52

The moment in “The Homecoming” that I found most disturbing was when Ruth, in response to Lenny threatening to take her water glass away from her, says, “If you take the glass… I’ll take you.” This is disturbing because this line shocks the audience; it is the first time Ruth threatens anyone in the play and so far she has not done anything to indicate that she is an aggressor. This moment reflects a shift of roles as Ruth comes out of her defensive position and begins to “attack” Lenny, proving that she intends to be a contender in the competition to hold the power within the family. Throughout the play we have seen we have seen Lenny threaten to take Max’s position as head of the family away from him (Lenny is unlikely to ever take this further than a threat and probably does not ever intend to be head of the family; he just likes to taunt Max) but now we see Ruth threaten Lenny. Lenny seems to be unwilling to compete with Ruth, as he is only willing to take the glass before she says that she will take him if he tries to do so, therefore he seems daunted and surprised by her assertions. Furthermore, the suggestion of Ruth attempting to claim the role as head of her husband’s family upon her first arrival at the house is bizarre, yet the seemingly provocative way that she declares that she will “take” Lenny is simply perverse and it is a shock because it is the first time Pinter explicitly suggests that Ruth will (willingly) take on a sexual role within the family, which is even more disturbing. Therefore, this moment depicts the moment that the readers or audience gain a first glimpse of Ruth as the aggressor in the play, provoking what the audience already knows is a seemingly violent family, and so this shocks and consequently disturbs the reader.
Hippo's comment, November 12, 2014 9:39 AM
FM wrote There are many elements and examples of disturbing moments in the play. The plot practically revolves around disturbing and awkward moments in order for each character to assert dominance over the very male, competitive household. Yet different characters display their attempts for dominance in very different ways. Max tends to attack and not hold back; firing his sons, brother and Ruth rudely with intense spite. On the contrary Lenny prefers to provoke the attacker by ignoring, or, disturbing his 'opponent' with sinister remarks. For example in the opening scene when Lenny tells max, “you know what, your getting demented.” This is a hateful insult to make to your father especially if it may be true. However up to page 57 the most disturbing moment for me is the hint of an abusive past between Max and Lenny. It is played off in the usual style of Max and Lenny's conversations, with Max shouting and laying into Lenny, followed by Lenny hushing him with a rather clever, yet sinister move. The idea of an abusive past between the two is first brought up on page 9 towards the end of the opening argument between the two, which escalated into max, threateningly gripping his stick. When Lenny notices this he patronisingly and creepily says, “oh, daddy, you're not going to use your stick on me, are you? Eh? Don't use your stick on me Daddy. No, please...” Here Lenny talks to Max as if he is a young boy talking to his father. This is not only sinister but very disturbing as it reveals a possibly disturbing past of abuse. The fact that Lenny is so confident and casual in saying it in front of his father makes it even more disturbing as Lenny shows signs of sociopathy. This hint of abuse is then revisited by Lenny on page 21 when he reminds Max that “he used to like tucking up his sons.” This again hints at past abuse and is made even more disturbing when Max tells Lenny that he will give him “a proper tuck up one of these nights.”
Hippo's comment, November 12, 2014 9:40 AM
AC wrote: In my opinion, the most disturbing moment in the play is Lenny's antagonising of Max in the opening scene: "Oh, Daddy, you're not going to use your stick on me, are you? ... Don't clout me with that stick, Dad." The play begins with Lenny and Max interacting with each other alone in the living room. Although the tone is tense due to the constant barrage of insults and threats being hurled between the two, it does seem that there is an underlying tone of playfulness; it's as if they do this regularly. However, when Lenny puts forward this hint of past abuse, the atmosphere recognisably shifts to one of unease. Because of the dialogue that has just taken place the reader is unsure how to react as Max is clearly an aggressive character, clearly capable of being wound up by Lenny who seems to enjoy pushing Max to the point of violence. Lenny mimes a child here, by repeating "Daddy", clearly undermining Max, as Lenny recognises his father has a very distinct view of himself as the 'alpha-male'. It is also significant that Lenny refers to Max's walking aid as "that stick", as it potentially demonstrates a younger Lenny's obsessive desire to elude this 'weapon', as it has scarred him to the point of fearing the stick rather than the rage of his father. Therefore, perhaps it was this cruel upbringing that has led Lenny, as he's grown up, to constantly vex his father, as he no longer has the physical advantage, symbolised by his walking stick.
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The Homecoming by Harold Pinter - YouTube

Peter Hall's 1973 TV adaptation of the stage play. Max - Paul Rogers Lenny - Ian Holm Sam - Cyril Cusack Joey - Terence Rigby Teddy - Michael Jayston Ruth Vi...

Via B. Lau
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The entire film

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The Homecoming by Harold Pinter (Stables Theatre Production 6th ...

The Homecoming by Harold Pinter (Stables Theatre Production 6th ... | Pinter's The Homecoming |
The Homecoming by Harold Pinter (Stables Theatre Production 6th to 14th June 2014). Homecoming Plays are like people: they're all different. While most follow the mainstream offering variations on a well worn theme, ...
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Some interesting views on the characters in this review

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Lenny from "The Homecoming" - YouTube

RT @andymccutch: something I've been working on from The Homecoming #Pinter #theater
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May help you learn some quotations

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Arena Harold Pinter Part 1 - YouTube

Nigel Williams's two-part film biography explores Pinter's life, work, and political passions - from his East End childhood to his work as an actor, his expe...
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Mr Raudnitz, who once met Pinter in a cheeseshop, recommends this.

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What Sam Wants

He probably was dead, for about thirty seconds

Professor Minerva McGonagall's comment, November 22, 2013 10:47 AM
In The Homecoming Sam is presented as being motivated by the desire to undermine Max. This is illustrated through the undercutting of Sam by both Lenny and Max. Pinter suggests that this is due to Sam’s possession of a job. Not only does Sam have a job but he also has a moral code which encourages him to not stoop to Max’s petty jibes. The repetition of “not me” by Sam highlights his morality while also showing that he is uncomfortable due to the mockery. Not only does this present Sam as a victim within the family unit but it also encourages the audience to believe that Sam must want to, in some way or other, get back at his brother for the cruelty that he has endured. Later on in the play Sam undermines Max by describing how he used to take Jessie for rides in his car in the evenings. This hints at a possibility that Sam and Jessie were having sex while she was married to Max. Sam then seems to really go for Max when talking about Jessie and mocks Max as he “was looking after her for you, when you were busy, wasn’t I?” The use of a rhetorical question by Pinter provides the character of Sam with a certain degree of power over Max as he’s blaming Max for allowing Jessie to go driving round the West End with Sam. This gets a reaction out of Max however once again Pinter portrays Sam as a ‘better’ person as he doesn’t stoop to the level of his brother’s ridicule; “MAX: Why do I keep you here? You’re just an old grub. SAM: Am I? MAX: You’re a maggot. SAM: Oh yes?”Sam is effectively getting at Max by not responding in the way that Max wants and therefore is doing exactly what he wants; undermining Max’s power in the family unit. The audience is given an insight into Sam and Teddy’s relationship as it’s revealed that they sent letters to each other while Teddy was in America. Sam never told Max about these letters which suggests that he wanted to keep Teddy’s affection for him secret. Sam’s line “Why don’t you stay for a couple more weeks, eh? We could have a few laughs” is critical as Sam understands that Lenny got out of the family situation and it could be interpreted that Sam wants the same. Alternatively Sam could feel protected in Teddy’s presence due to their similarity as they both have jobs. More than anything Sam wants to get on with his life with as little hassle from the others as possible while subtly trying to get back at his brother for the, suggested, years of ill-treatment that he has suffered.
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What Max Wants

Where's the scissors?

Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:25 AM
Hannah writes: Above all, Max wants respect from his family. This is displayed by his constant reference to his past, hoping that this will show what he has given up for the family and what he has done for them. “You never heard such silence” through portraying the dear he evoked in the past, Max hopes to inspire the respect of his sons. Similarly, he attempts to make them grateful for what he has done to “keep my family in luxury” by highlighting the hardships he endured for them as well as by emphasising the respect others, even “dukes” had for him, and the opportunities, such as a “proper post” he’s given up. Max’s desire for respect is demonstrated through his commands, “well you are going to have to share”, “Give me a fag”, in these, Pinter displays Max’s desperation for respect, as he hopes to inspire respect through his authoritative nature. This desperation is further seen in his fear of losing respect “What are you trying to do, humiliate me?”, “I’m here too you know”. The fear of not being respected is one that Pinter links with Max’s age, “I’m not an old man”, “too old?”, it is implied that the lack of respect paid to Max is to do with his age: “you’re sexless”, Max’s desperation for his age not to lose him respect is shown by his use of the stick to assert his authority “Max grips his stick”. Max undermines Sam in an attempt to regain respect: “Thought you were a good driver did he, Sam?”, and his provocation of Sam, “above having a good band on the back seat are you?” emphasises this. Finally, Max’s need for respect is illustrated by his admission that “I respected my father”, using the idea of the respect owed to a father by his children. Max’s demand “I want you to try and rid these feelings of resentment”, highlights his desire for respect.<br>Max’s primary motive in “The Homecoming” is control, “I said chuck them out” highlights his demands, which he expects to be carried out. When he is not obeyed, he attempts to regain control through physical violence is indicative of his need to have control in his family, “Max grips his stick”, “I’ll chop off your spine”. The implication that he has used violence to assert control in the past: “Don’t use your stick on me Daddy” emphasises Pinter’s portrayal of Max as a man desperately trying to maintain control over his family. At other times, Max attempts to regain control over his sons through depicting an idyllic family “what fun we used to have in the bath, eh, boys?”, and trying to convince them that they were once a conventional family unit, with Max in the patriarchal role, “they knelt down at our feet”, so could be again. Through this, it could be argued that Max only wants to return to a nice, happy family environment, however, the changes in his depiction of his family, from “like Christmas”, to “ A crippled family, three bastard sons, a slutbitch of a wife” only two pages later highlights the fact that Max uses the image of the family as a tool to attempt to assert his control. It is Max who first puts forward the idea of “keeping” Ruth, illustrating his desire to have control, as by having a “woman in the house”, Max will no longer have to fulfil the female role within the house, and in doing so, will be able to regain control as the senior, patriarchal figure rather than having to fulfil the female role too. Max’s motivation in proposing Ruth’s remaining with them is that he believes he will be in control, as he believes that he will have control over Ruth. <br>
Luna Lovegood's comment, November 23, 2013 6:38 PM
Max sees himself as the head of the family, the father figure (despite being portrayed as effeminate: he cooks and washes up, he swears using curses usually used by women: “you bitch”, “don’t talk to me about the pains of childbirth”). Max illustrates his desire to overpower and be dominant through hooks such as his walking stick (although he only uses it once for direct violence, rather he uses it to appear aggressive, “Max lifts his stick and points at [Lenny]”), Max offers Jessie a “drop of cherry brandy”, the armchair, taking the cigar without being offered. Although Max essentially wants to be head of the household, he clearly appreciates family values and the “moral code” that dictates the running of the family (despite being non-conventional: the blasé attitude the family has to rape and violence). However these values are personified particularly in Ruth: the dichotomy of a woman- either a mother or a sexual object. What Max wants from Ruth is ambiguous as his actions constantly flit between his want for Ruth as a sexual partner, “you think I’m too old for you”…”Kiss me”, and his want for a motherly figure to replace Jessie “but you’re a charming woman”, “She’s an intelligent and sympathetic woman”; however Max also sees Ruth as a mean to achieve dominance: if he can have Ruth he will have won, “you think you’re just going to get that big slag all the time”.
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What Teddy Wants

I'm afraid I'm the wrong person to ask. 

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Sophia writes


It was Teddy’s decision to return home with his wife, therefore he must have a motive of some sort for wanting to do this. While it may seem that he came home to see father, brothers and uncle because they are family and he missed them, there does seem to be an ulterior motive and I think that it is to gloat. Most people argue that Teddy wants to remain ‘operating on things’; that is to say he is not directly involved emotionally or physically in the family, but is still able to observe them. Therefore, the idea that Teddy wants to remain distanced from his family does not explain why he decided to return home. There is a constant power struggle in this family and I think that Teddy is still a part of it but has given himself a more elevated role. He returned home with Ruth who used to be a prostitute and turned her into a faithful wife and mother: ‘We’ve had a smelly scrubber… stinking pox-ridden slut in my house all night’ (Max, page 66). During this argument, Teddy constantly repeats how Ruth is his wife, demonstrating the control and power he has over her – he was able to take her out of the life she and him were involved in (prostitution, gangs, violence, crime). The difficulty here for Teddy is that he wants to remain ‘operating on things’ but still have influence in the family. On page 100, Teddy’s most passionate and longest speech is about his wanting to not get ‘lost in things.’ His desperation to remain at a distance even means he fails what he (possibly) came to do in the first place, which was to show off his power and individuality to his family through his new wife. However his wife chooses to stay in London and reverts back to her hold ways and in order for Teddy to remain operating on things he has to give her up (business transaction). With regards to his power and control, on page 100 when he talks about his perspective on the world, there does seem to be the desire to elevate his status through presenting himself as an objective observer. Rather than being ‘out’ of things and having no influence or control, he decides to be ‘on’ things: ‘I am the one who can see.’ This suggests that he thinks that he is enlightened – not necessarily in a religious sense however.  The fact that he is a professor of philosophy ties in with this idea. He wants to have influence and power over the family, but at a distance so that he is not directly involved. 

Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:24 AM
Josie writes:
Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:24 AM
What Teddy wants?<br>Teddy initially wants Ruth to come home with him in the beginning of the play. “I think we’ll go back mmnn? Shall we go home?” Teddy is eager to remove Ruth from the house and is extremely keen to go back to where he considers home. “We might as well... cut it short, I think.” He senses Ruth slipping between his fingers and is tempting to recapture her. However re realises that he cares more about his positioning in the family ‘food chain’ then for Ruth. He would rather remain superior to his family then successfully bring Ruth home with him. Teddy remains extremely silent and still while Max, Lenny and Joey discuss the fate of Ruth. “But Ruth I should tell you... that you’ll have to pull your weight a little if you stay.” This shows Teddy excepting the idea of Ruth staying in the family home while Teddy keeps his integrity and power he has over his family as he has broken out and prospered in the land of individualism.<br>Counter argument:<br>However some may see that Teddy brought Ruth to his family house with a prior motive foreseeing what would unravel later on. Teddy could be seen as subtly pushing Ruth into her desired fate. Teddy never gets extremely involved and seems to never want to retaliate to comments thrown at home by his family as a way to show he is more mature and reasonable then them. “Yes she’s a very good cook.” Teddy is selling Ruth’s qualities to the family advertising her most successful features. As if he wants them to want her. “I’m not putting anything in the Kitty.” This shows his acceptance of her staying and his instant detachment from her. She is no longer his concern and he no longer cares for her fate. <br>
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Understanding Lenny

Understanding Lenny | Pinter's The Homecoming |

Bill Naismith ( from Harold Pinter. Faber and Faber. London (2000)


Lenny is the most provocative character in the play.Our lack of certainty about what Lenny does and says is part of the intrigue of the play.Ultimately it is an unrewarding task to try and explain Lenny fully.


The Social Dynamics of Comedy: Roger B. Henkle

The Sewanee Review  (via JSTOR)


Yet the most comic moments are those in which the characters go through the motions of the old stereotyped roles. Lenny and Teddy re-enact a classic little boys’ squabble over a cheese-roll…We feel the deeper tension beneath this exchange…


Recommended further reading via JSTOR

Treatment of Character in Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming"       William J FreeHarold Pinter's Happy Families.                                                         R. F. Storch

Hippo's comment, November 7, 2013 10:03 AM
Is the play really about Lenny wanting the house? (Look at Esslin's theory of characters as metaphor) To achieve this, he must overcome his father and disposess his older brother (like Edmund). He also needs to make sure Joey is content. By forcing his brother to leave by taking his wife (whom he seems to have little genuine interest in, and who brings his father to his knees), Lenny "wins". It may be Ruth's "Homecoming" but Lenny is in charge - symbolised by him standing apart from the final tableau.
Hippo's comment, November 7, 2013 10:08 AM
Some key moments are (according to the class): 1st meeting with Ruth: (pp41-53) p9"You will go before me, Dad, if you talk to me in that tone of voice." pp103-5 - the cheese roll incident. pp55-56 - the enquiry into his conception. p46 "Just a touch...just a tickle...I'll tell you why." p86 "I'll come with you". p46 - the story about the prostitute under the arch. p50 The mangle episode. p49:"I am very sensitive to atmosphere but I tend to get desensitised when people make unreasonable demands." p45 - he ignores Ruth's remark she is married. "The whole-clock bit". P94 - "What about one dance before you go?"
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Go on, take a sip.

Rocks, what do you know about rocks?

Hippo's insight:

I often asks pupils to explore "hooks" (or as Hannah calls them in "Arcadia", pegs.) These are small things in the play which can be seen to symbolise key features of the play as a whole.  In a lesson last week, Sophia observed that characters offer, ask for, comment on and refuse drinks in the play. Below are reflections by the rest of the class on the significance  of drinks in the play.

Rhianna Gerry's comment, November 6, 2013 8:38 PM
Lenny’s speech page 105: Lenny is imagining what living in America is like for Teddy. He suggests it is full of luxuries such as ‘open spaces’ and ‘the social whirl…down by the pool.’ Lenny then goes on to mention ‘tons of iced water’ as if it were a privilege and luxury too. Lenny believes there’s ‘no time of the day or night you can’t get a cup of coffee or a Dutch gin.’ He uses this against Teddy as the fact these drinks are apparently so easily accessible might make Teddy feel guilty that he has left his family behind and embraced his new lifestyle, without them.
Hippo's comment, November 6, 2013 10:52 PM
Sophia's comment. Directly after the scene between Ruth and Joey kissing, Ruth asks for something to eat and drink. There is a clear link between basic animalistic desires in this scene. Ruth uses drink as a way of asserting power over Lenny and her demanding tone almost sounds arrogant: 'What's this glass? I can't drink out of this.' (pg 98) The fact that Lenny is providing the drink makes him seem feminine (in the context of the play) because he is fulfilling the domestic role without so much as a complaint (stage directions pg 99).
Josie Whitley's comment, November 11, 2013 8:23 PM
In pages 84-97 Ruth uses drink as a symbolism of power. As soon as she feels the power being slipped away from her grasp when 'Lenny touches ruth's head with his foot' she instantly gets up and becomes extremely demanding. "I'd like a drink. Did you get any drink?" She uses drink as a way to retrieve the power in this scene.
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The Official Harold Pinter Website
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You don't have to agree with all the views in the first review, but there are some clearly expressed ideas about character and meaning.

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Ruth in “The Homecoming” | A B S U R D

Ruth in “The Homecoming” | A B S U R D | Pinter's The Homecoming |
Certain facts, like marriage and family have clearly ceased to have meaning” – Harold Pinter on Ruth (Prentice, 463). One of the most confusing things about The Homecoming is the character Ruth, so I wanted to spend one ...
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Useful ideas. I like the point about her conditional phrases when discussing the future. Clearly written and contains a good selection of useful quotations.

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Angus Watt's Revision Guide

The Homecoming
by Harold Pinter


Revision Guide

1) Plot


ACT 1: Scene 1 pp 3-9
Dialogue between Max and Lenny in the living room. Max asks Lenny where the scissors are as he wishes to cut an advert out of the paper. He asks for a cigarette and then descends into reminiscences about his friend Mac, his wife and his career with horses. Lenny responds joking that his father is a dog cook. There is an implication of child abuse as Lenny pleads with Max not to hit him with his stick.

Scene 2 pp 10-19
Enter Uncle Sam. Lenny sarcastically asks Sam how his day has been (Sam is a chauffeur). Sam tells of how he took an American to the airport (who gave him a cigar for his driving); Lenny facetiously attempts to undermine him.  Sam explains why he is the best driver; Lenny continues to undermine by agreeing while Max makes derogatory sexual implications. Sam then tells of how he used to drive Jessie around.

Scene 3 pp 19-25
Enter Joey who, like Sam, is feeling hungry. Max tells them to go and find a mother (implication is that Max will cook). There is more implied child abuse (tucking up his sons). Joey talks about his boxing: he has a pretty good idea how to attack and defend. The conversation returns to Max and Sam discussing Jessie. Sam says he looked after Jessie before Max refers to Mac as a bastard/runt. Max then speaks about their father (“I remember my father”) – more implications of child abuse.

Scene 4 pp 25-41
Teddy and Ruth enter. They ‘gingerly’ walk around the room: Ruth is very cautious. Teddy explains that a wall was knocked down as his mother was dead (implied connection). Ruth is eager to leave and says that she just wants to go for a walk outside. Teddy chews his knuckles nervously as she leaves (having relinquished the key – phallic image? No, don’t be ridiculous).
Lenny enters to join Teddy. They meet without much affection. Mundane conversation about a clock ensues. Ruth is not mentioned. They go to bed.

Scene 6 pp 41-57
Lenny greets Ruth as she enters. Lenny fails to acknowledge Ruth when she tells him Teddy is her husband. He gives another philosophical anecdote about his clock. Lenny continues with bizarre statements (speculating that it is funny that she’s fully clothed and he is not). Lenny tells story about “dear old Venice” and the Italian campaign. Ruth’s shorter answers give her control. He tells story about how he beat up a “diseased” prostitute. Story about iron mangle – again intended to be intimidating. Lenny asks if he can move the ashtray, Ruth refuses. Lenny asks if he can take her glass, she refuses (“Leonard”). Ruth says that she’ll “take him” and asks him to “sit on [her] lap” and “take a nice cool sip”.
Max is awoken by their conversation but Lenny aggressively reassures him he was thinking aloud. Lenny questions Max about his conception (implication that Lenny is not the son of Max?)

Scene 8 pp 57-70
Customarily mundane and aggressive conversation about football ensues. Max argues with Sam boasting that he gave birth to three sons and states that MacGregor was a better butcher than Sam. Teddy and Ruth enter (again no greeting). Max assumes that Ruth is a dirty tart – he’s never had a whore under his roof since Jessie died. Max hits Joey in the stomach (Max is equally badly affected) then hits Sam over the head with his stick. Joey, reflecting the final scene, sinks to Ruth’s feet. Conversation turns cordial as Max inquires about the children (“all yours, Ted?”). Max “gurgles” as he delightfully exclaims “he still loves his father” when Teddy embraces him.

ACT 2: Scene 1 pp 70-90
Ruth and Max exchange compliments on the lunch and the cup of coffee. Max begins to reminisce about the past – he postulates how Jessie would react with her grandchildren. Jessie taught her boys “every single bit of the moral code they live by”. He refers to her as the “backbone” of the family. He then recalls the boys’ childhood with more allusions to child abuse (“what fun we used to have in the bath”). The missing “pouffe” symbolizes Jessie’s absence. Max quickly turns to attack elaborating on the hardship of being a butcher to support his “crippled family, three bastard sons, a slutbitch of a wife”. He compares his work to Sam’s and implies Sam is a male prostitute. Max asks Teddy about his wedding: Max compliments him on how successful he is. Ruth concedes that she “was” a charming woman implying that she was formerly a prostitute. Teddy divulges that he has three boys. Lenny tries to undermine Teddy by quizzing him on philosophy. Ruth then uses her sexuality to control the male characters by moving her leg. The others leave the room and it is now Ruth who wishes to stay and Teddy to leave. Marital issues are evident.

Scene 2 pp 90-101
Ruth reveals to Lenny that she was a “photographic model for the body”. Teddy enters before Lenny puts on his radiogram. Teddy insists that they should leave but Lenny and Ruth dance and kiss. Next, Joey kisses her. Ruth demands something to eat and drink – Lenny supplies (but with wrong glass and without ice/’rocks’). Teddy tells them that they wouldn’t understand any of his works, not because they’re not intelligent but because they cannot look at the world in the appropriate way.

Scene 3 pp 101-138
Sam compliments Teddy telling him that he was Jessie’s favourite. Lenny asks where his cheese-roll is and accuses Teddy of stealing it. Teddy did steal it. Lenny bemoans Teddy’s audacity. Joey comes from upstairs but it is revealed that he didn’t “go the whole hog” in two hours. They remember that last week that took two girls to the bombed site in the Alfa and how Joey had been the whole hog. Suggestions that Ruth become a prostitute are aired. They agree they have to pay her and buy her clothes. They agree to fund her with the money she’ll get from Greek Street. Joey doesn’t want to share her but he is convinced. They discuss what to call her: Gillian or Cynthia. They then dream about an international business. Ruth enters. They make their proposal to Ruth. Ruth makes enormous demands and while she doesn’t reject the proposal, she never accepts it. Sam comes forward and says that MacGregor had Jessie in the back of his car. He collapses. Ruth refuses to shake on the proposal. Teddy leaves (“Eddie... don’t be a stranger”). Max’s anxiety begins as he questions whether she’ll “do the dirty on us”. He falls on the floor kneeling at her feet. Curtain with Joey and Max at Ruth’s feet.

2) Context

Pinter was born in Hackney, East London, as the only child of lower middle-class English parents of Jewish ancestry. Pinter’s home was described by his official biographer Michael Billington as "a solid, red-brick, three-storey villa just off the noisy, bustling, traffic-ridden thoroughfare of the Lower Clapton Road". Billington states that the "life-and-death intensity of daily experience" before and during the Blitz left Pinter with profound memories "of loneliness, bewilderment, separation and loss: themes that are in all his works."

The notion of putting on a working class family on stage was a relatively new innovation of the 1960s (second to only John Osbourne) given that Pinter’s audience was predominantly middle-class.

3) Themes

The Past
Ambiguous references to the past pervade The Homecoming. Max’s ironic plea for Ruth and Teddy to “live in the present” (“who can afford to live in the past”) contradicts his own obsession with living in the past. In the first scene he doesn’t want to take a cutting from a current paper but rather “last Sunday’s paper”. Max dubiously recalls various memories (which one can infer to be exaggerated or plainly libellous) which imply that he was impressive in his youth:
a) “We were two of the worst hated men in the West End of London... you never heard such silence”
They are from the East End – gangsters? Max is trying to trying to impress Lenny by referring to his former greatness.
b) “I’ve stroked their manes, I’ve held them, I’ve calmed them down before a big race”.
Totally undermined by his inability to recall “the Duke of ...” (bathetic), the vague “family obligations” that prevented him from taking the job, and the cliché “thundering past the post”.
c) “I remember the boys came down, in their pyjamas, all their hair shining... it was like Christmas” – “A crippled family, three bastard sons, a slutbitch of a wife” - Max’s blinkered perception of the past is twofold – there is a gulf between reality and his idealised past (See essay).

There are also continually implications of child abuse:
a) “Oh, Daddy, you’re not going to use the stick on me, are you”
Incongruity (passive but aggressive). This obvious elusion to Lenny’s childhood is mocking Max’s “family obligations”. Lenny uses this to win the verbal contest (by remaining passive).
b) “He used to like tucking his sons up” – some might laugh, other might be horrified.
c) “He’d bend right over me... Give me the bottle... Wipe me clean... Give me a smile... Pat me on the bum... I remember my father” – short phrases (violent).
d) “Why don’t we have a nice cuddle and kiss, eh? Like the old days”
e) “What fun we used to have in the bath, eh, boys?”.

Jessie’s past is the subject of euphemistic and suggestive dialogue throughout until finally Sam bluntly declares her affair with MacGregor:
a) “I’ve never done that kind of thing in my car”, “”Yes, I leave that to others”, “Like other people” (Max – “Other people? What other people?... What other people?”), “she was your wife. But still...”.
b) “I’ve never had a whore under this roof before. Ever since your mother died”, “slutbitch of a wife”, “rotten stinking face”, “bad bitch”.
c) “Every single bit of the moral code they live by – was taught to them by their mother” – Jessie was clearly an immoral woman.
d) “MacGregor was a driver”... “Don’t you believe it”.
e) “MacGregor had Jessie in the back of my cab as I drove them along” – Sam is conscience of family and therefore inevitable that he collapses when negotiations get dirty.

Ruth’s past , like Jessie’s, is shrouded in doubt throughout the play:
a) “Can I have the key” – Ruth is clearly independent of Teddy and knows the area well.
b) “But you’re a charming woman” – “I was...”
c) “I was a model for the body. A photographical model for the body” – Martin Esslin – “this is a widely known euphemism for a prostitute”.

The visit to Europe:
a) “You liked Venice didn’t you? It was lovely, wasn’t it? You had a good week. I mean... I took you there. I can speak Italian” – Was visit to Venice a marriage saving trip? Even now Teddy is trying to impress Ruth with his intellect. Martin Esslin – “last minute attempt at a second honeymoon to save the marriage”.

“She’s not well, and we’ve got to get home to the children”

Bill Naismith – “she may well have suffered a breakdown brought about by an identity crisis in America where the social demands have made her seriously depressed”.

Family Life – importance of women
Women hold an important role in what appears to be a male-dominated house. It has been argued that The Homecoming refers to Teddy and/or to Ruth (coming home having been a prostitute in the area). However, it could be argued that it is Jessie or the female character of the home who is coming home. Martin Esslin – “she is a reincarnation of Jessie”.

a)       The Back Wall, which contained the door, has been removed. – “We knocked it down... years ago... to make an open living area. The structure wasn’t affected, you see. My mother was dead”.

Max says “she was the backbone to this family” when speaking about Jessie. This motif of Jessie as the structure and 4th wall of the family runs through the play. While when Max gives “a little cough [his] back collapses”, Jessie is the pouffe that Max “hasn’t seen (it) for years”. Since Jessie has left there is something missing from the family (a comforting influence) that Ruth now replaces.

b)       “Go and find yourself a mother”

The lack of a female influence in the house is a domestic burden upon Max. He is forced to reluctantly cook for the family (“dog cook”). However, upon Ruth’s arrival he sees the opportunity to offload some duties - he has “the feeling {Ruth is a} first-rate cook”.
Martin Esslin – “Max’s inadequacy – or supposed inadequacy – as a cook is the most telling symbol of this state of affairs”.

c)       “Since poor Jessie died, eh, Sam? We haven’t had a woman in the house. Not one. Inside this house. And I’ll tell you why. Because their mother’s image was so dear any other woman would have... tarnished it. But you... Ruth... you’re not only lovely and beautiful, but you’re kin”.

The Oedipal Fantasy is evident here. Martin Esslin – The Homecoming deals with the same themes as King Lear and Oedipus Rex – “the desolation of old age and the son’ desire for the sexual conquest of the mother” – Lenny talks about moment of conception (erotic context) – Hamlet figure.
Max and the other characters (excluding Sam) want Jessie as a mother (domestic chores for the house) and as a sexual object. While Max here likes this idea, in the final scene he has doubts. He thinks “she’ll do the dirty on us”. Just like the heroines of Greek tragedy (e.g. Medea), Ruth is a clever woman, and a clever woman cannot be trusted. However, at the end of the play this clever woman appears in control of the men. While the end of Act 1 saw the boys kneeling at Max’s feet, the entry of the female character has turned the tables.

It is ironic that Teddy returns to his three boys in America without their mother figure.

As is seen in the flooring motif, dialogue between the characters is a game/a contest that is won by passivity. As Max says to Joey, “what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to learn how to defend yourself, and you’ve got to learn how to attack”. The motif of boxing runs throughout the play – all characters are verbal boxers. They are all on guard against an attack.

The initial dialogue between Max and Lenny is perhaps the best example of verbal jousting. In response to Max’s three pages of speech, Lenny replies “I reading the paper”, “Why don’t you shut up you daft prat” and “You know what, you’re getting demented”. Lenny doesn’t engage in dialogue regarding the scissors, the cigarette, the story about Mac or the story about the horses. It is evident that Lenny has won the struggle as while he is passive, Max resorts to disconcerting angered statements: “rotten stinking face”, “I’ll chop your spine off”, “you bitch”. Lenny’s faux intimacy in asking if he can “change the subject” and his mocking illusion to his childhood allow him to win the contest.

This is also apparent in Lenny’s conversations with (i) Sam, (ii) Teddy and (iii) Ruth:

(i)                  Lenny tries to undermine Sam throughout this passage. He facetiously asks if the American going the airport “had to catch a plane there, did he?” Sam’s response (“he told me I was the best chauffeur he’d ever had”) is either totally naive or he is showing that he can boast as much as possible and play the game (happened before). Lenny is sarcastic throughout (“he’s most likely a high executive in a worldwide group of aeronautical engineers”), but Sam doesn’t rise to it (“yes”). Sam turns from defence to attack with his allusion “I leave that to others”.

(ii)                Lenny attempts to win power over his brother when he questions him about philosophy. Teddy bats off any attempts of Lenny to engage him by saying “I’m the wrong person to ask”.

(iii)              Lenny attempts to intimidate Ruth with a number of strange anecdotes. Lenny continues with bizarre statements (speculating that it is funny that she’s fully clothed and he is not). Lenny tells story about “dear old Venice” and the Italian campaign. Ruth’s shorter answers give her control. He tells story about how he beat up a “diseased” prostitute. Story about iron mangle – again intended to be intimidating. Bill Naismith – she sits – “the more still she is the weaker Lenny becomes”. Lenny asks if he can move the ashtray, Ruth refuses. Lenny asks if he can take her glass, she refuses (“Leonard”). Ruth says that she’ll “take him” and asks him to “sit on [her] lap” and “take a nice cool sip”.
In the morning, Bill Naismith argues that she “maintains her powerful presence by remaining still and not reacting to the violence inflicted on Joey and Sam”.

Thus, Ruth is able to win power by the end of the play – she knows how to play the game. She suddenly pushes Joey away and walk around the room demanding food and drink. Bill Naismith argues that “the walking about the room indicates a degree of taking over – which she is in the process of doing”.

 However, Lenny looms. He is not at her feet thus predictably The Homecoming has an inconclusive ending. The affinity of Ruth and Lenny has already been established (Italian campaign) so one might argue that they are the victors.

Bill Naismith – “Teddy will do anything rather than lose face”.

4) Motifs

The Pinter Pause
Pinter’s punctuation - used throughout the play to heighten the tension of competitive dialogues.
Pinter said “Hall once held a ‘dot and pause’ rehearsal for the actors in The Homecoming. Although it sounds bloody pretentious it was apparently very valuable”.

The Black and White Checkered Flooring
Peter Hall’s 1973 screenplay uses a black and white checkered floor: this symbolizes a chess board. The characters manoeuvre themselves around this large room in a constant battle/confrontation with each other. Their goal is always to achieve check mate which one might argue Ruth has achieved at the end of the play (if one ignores the looming Lenny). The King, Max, can only manoeuvre very slowly and ineffectively. It is no surprise that the Queen is the most valuable and effective chess piece.

Max’s horse story appears to merely be a probably false anecdote glorying his underwhelming past. However, it begins the motif of animals and meat being compared to women. Max states that he “could smell” “a good horse” (a horse that could see out the trip). Indeed, he “could tell whether she was a stayer or not”. In the final scene, as Max has doubts about Jessie he states “she’ll make use of use, I can tell you! I can smell it! You want to bet?” The repetition of ‘smell’ and the obvious link to gambling on horses confirms this motif.

Max suggests that if Sam gets a girl, “we’d take it in turns to give her a walk around the park” – an animalistic dog-like proposal. Joey didn’t go “the whole hog” referring to sex with Ruth. Greek Street, where Ruth was to be set up as a prostitute, is famous for two things: prostitution and its restaurants.

In light of this, Max’s assertion that he “was going all over the country to find meat” seems strange. Why would one go around the country as a butcher to find meat? Might Max also have been a pimp? Might this leave Sam as the driving for this pimping agency?
Martin Esslin – “there can be little doubt that Max was a butcher by trade... does not mean that Max and MacGregor could not also... have been engaged in less savoury occupations”.

The Key
Just like the cigarette (Lenny and Max), the key becomes the object of power in the struggle between Teddy and Ruth. It has been argued that the key is a phallic symbol and therefore Ruth’s acquisition of the key immasculates Teddy. While this is somewhat tenuous, Teddy’s relinquishing of the key tells us something about the balance of power between Teddy and Ruth.

The Glass of Water
The glass of water becomes the object of power in the struggle between Lenny and Ruth. Lenny attempts to gain power over Ruth by relieving her of her glass. He comically suggests that she’s “consumed quite enough, in [his] opinion”. However, Ruth takes control by refusing to give him the glass, calling him “Leonard” and making her outrageous proposal.

The cheese-roll which was stolen from Lenny by Teddy could be argued to be a vengeful symbolic counteract to Lenny stealing Teddy’s wife. Both are instances of “barefaced audacity”.

4th Wall
See importance of women section.

5) Pinter’s Perspective

What’s the Homecoming about? – “It’s about love and lack of love. The people are harsh and cruel, to be sure. Still, they aren’t acting arbitrarily but for very deep-seated reasons” – Peter Hall – Teddy is “the biggest bastard in a house full of bastards” as while the other characters have feelings, Teddy does not.

Hippo's comment, April 25, 2013 8:26 AM
A superb revision exercise. Good to see plenty of detail through quotations and symbols.
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Maurice Charney - Pinter’s Fractured Discourse in _The Homecoming_

Maurice Charney - Pinter’s Fractured Discourse in _The Homecoming_ | Pinter's The Homecoming |
In Connotations 21.2-3 Maurice Charney analyzes Pinter's The Homecoming.

Via Bronweasley
Hippo's insight:

Certainly worth a read. Good on Pinter's style (with some useful quotations) and raises some interesting ideas about Ruth's "underwear" speech. 

Bronweasley's curator insight, November 17, 2013 8:38 PM

1. Ruth's 'fractured discourse' could be more powerful than Lenny's unsettlingly fluid monologues e.g. in this highly sexualized passage: Look at me. I … move my leg. That's all it is. But I wear … underwear … which moves with me …it… captures your attention. Perhaps you misinterpret. The action is simple. It's a leg … moving. My lips move. Why don't you restrict … your observations to that? Perhaps the fact that they move is more significant … than the words which come through them. You must bear that … possibility … in mind. (52−53)

2. from website: Ruth suddenly blurts out: "I was born quite near here" (53). This announces that the play is also about Ruth's homecoming.

3. the idea that Pinter lets his  characters 'pursue their autonomous destinies'. 'He claimed not to have any superior knowledge about why his characters moved in the ways that they did, and he was dismayed by naturalistic and causative explanations, especially among reviewers but also by established literary critics.'

Rescooped by Hippo from The Homecoming!

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming - "Glass of Water" - YouTube

Excerpt from Peter Hall's 1973 film of Pinters play. Starring Ian Holm, Paul Rogers and Vivien Merchant.

Via B. Lau
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Tweet from @ALVAREZ_JUSTIN | Pinter's The Homecoming |
“He talks to me about horses.” Manuscript page from Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming.”
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Arena Harold Pinter Part 2 - YouTube

In part two of this film biography, Arena explores the relationship between the public and private dimensions of the famous playwright and actor's life and w...
Hippo's insight:

Two other bits of Pinter/staff trivia. BR once tried to rent Pinter's flat, which features in this documentary.


Mr Wake once played cricket against Pinter. (Stumped Baslow 13)

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What Joey Wants

I didnt think I was going to have to share her!

Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:26 AM
Georgia writes Firstly, it could be argued that Joey purely wants a physical relationship. He is a very physical person, as a boxer, but also very violent, as he says, ‘I’ll kill the next man who says he gets the gravy’. This emphasis on the physical is furthermore presented by his lack of speech earlier in the scene, ‘Sometimes… you can be happy… and not go the whole hog’. He is a simple individual, with less intelligence than the others, and therefore he places more importance on his activity. Above all, this is presented by Joey’s relationship with Ruth, where he is primarily focused on having sex with her. He kisses her in front of Teddy, and the next thing we hear of him is that he ‘didn’t get all the way’ with her. Joey also ‘leans her back until she lies beneath him’ when they are kissing, portraying Joey using his physical nature to gain dominance by lying on top of her. This is a way for him to assert his control in a physical manner.<br>However, it could also be argued that Joey wants a maternal figure, in the form of Ruth, although he seems to be confused about Ruth’s role. Considering his sexual relationship with her, the image of her as a mother is disturbing. In the final tableau, we see Joey with ‘his head on her lap’, kneeling by her chair. This emphasises the idea of Joey as a child, and therefore could provide a reason for his confusion, another reason being the example set by Jessie, as his mother but also a prostitute. His childish personality leads to him being selfish and regarding Ruth as his possession. In response to Joey’s protest that he doesn’t ‘want to share her’, Max says, ‘otherwise she goes straight back to America. You understand?’ It is as though he is talking to a young child about his toy, and through this they make Ruth sound like a toy. The fact Joey can be considered a child makes it natural for Ruth to be a mother figure, although the sexual relationship distorts this perception. In addition, this idea of Joey wanting a mother figure contradicts the argument that he only wants a physical relationship, as in his physical relationship with Ruth he wants to be in control, but by acting as if she is his mother, he inadvertently shows that he in fact wants someone else to be in control, portraying an image of childish confusion.<br>
Fred Weasley's comment, November 22, 2013 10:49 AM
Joey is the representation of a simplistic male character; he functions by basic instincts and is defined by his physicality rather than his intellect. From the beginning of the play it is made apparent that Joey functions by responding to his senses. His opening line in the play is ‘Feel a bit hungry.’ (p 19) This is illustrative of his limited mind, as is how he passes his days; being a boxer in his free time and ‘in demolition in the daytime.’ (p 81) Both show brute force over intelligence, and he is rewarded for this by being the bouncer character in his family. When Max first meets Ruth and sees his son again for the first time in years, he directs Joey to kick them out of the house. (p 67) Again, his physicality is seen as his defining feature. Pinter ensures the reader understands of Joey stupidity by making his speech less eloquent than the other characters. Whereas the other characters use ellipses and pauses in the speech to gain their counterparts attention, or to create suspense in their story, Joey’s speech is minimal and fragmented with ellipses due to inability to speak well.<br>Joey’s simplicity causes him to look to Ruth as an object for pleasure. As a woman, Joey expects her to be the prostitute in their family dynamic and therefore is the character that is the most physical with her. He kisses Ruth in front of her husband, Teddy, and asserts dominance over her using his body. The stage direction at this point indicates ‘He leans her back until she lies beneath him. He kisses her.’ (p 95) It is unsurprising that the men in the household would subject the woman to sexual acts in front of one another, and lack the shame that is expected, yet Joey is far more physical in this scene. Whereas Lenny is simply caressing her hair, ‘Joey lies heavily on Ruth.’ (p 96) However, Joey also looks to Ruth as a caring, perhaps motherly figure. When the men in the house get in a physical fight, leaving Joey injured, he ‘sinks down at the feet of Ruth.’ (p 68) This scene shows how he gravitates towards Ruth, and he remains close to Ruth whilst regaining his feet. It is unsurprising that someone with such small intellect, such as Joey, would confuse the role of mother with prostitute, and vice versa, as he grew up with a mother who also acted in both roles.<br>
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What Lenny Wants

But I think you're concentrating too much on the economic considerating.

Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:27 AM
Willa writes: Ultimately Lenny desires to be positioned at the head of the family: to have complete control. This is portrayed explicitly in the opening of the play when he has a power dual with the traditional head of the family, the father, Max. Pinter demonstrates Lenny’s rejection of Max’s authority and therefore his power by his obvious disrespect: he consistently ignores Max, ‘Do you hear what I’m saying? I’m talking to you!’ and when he doesn’t, his speech is concentrated with demeaning words, ‘shut up, you daft prat’. This desire for control of the family continues upon the entrance of Ruth. Where initially the audience see Ruth as possessor of power, as symbolised through her possession of the keys, ‘Can I have the key? He gives it to her’, at closer inspection, it is Lenny who is manipulating Ruth because once he has power over Ruth, he can gain power over the family. Lenny’s dominance over Ruth is demonstrated when the family are making the arrangements to ‘keep her’. Pinter presents the initial elements of the deal for Ruth being made with Lenny, and not with Ruth, as it is Lenny who is the pimp, ‘I’m giving you a professional opinion’. Pinter even goes so far as to have Lenny renaming Ruth, ‘We could call her something Cynthia...or Gillian’, illustrating how Lenny has taken an authoritative role over Ruth. Lenny’s success in the accusation of power is then symbolised in the final tableau where he is positioned with all the family beneath him, standing above and behind Ruth, as if silently controlling her, and thus the whole family. <br><br><br>Lenny could be perceived as placing fear as his ultimate goal; he desires others to fear him. This is illustrated by Pinter through Lenny’s constant ploys to intimidate, especially through tales of past actions, ‘there she was up against this wall – well, just sliding down the wall, following the blow I’d given her’. Lenny reveals these stories with a proud demeanour, emitting an extremely violent persona which instinctively intimidates. However, upon the family’s lack of consideration for this apparent evil, Ruth merely asks, ‘How did you know she was diseased’, showing her emotional detachment from his story, Lenny then desires power, but only to ultimately acquire the fear of his family. This is because through power, comes control and with control, one is able to inflict ultimate intimidation and thus fear. <br>
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What Ruth Wants

What do you know about what she wants, eh, Ted?

Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:26 AM
Rhianna writes From reading The Homecoming, it is evident that Lenny ultimately wants control over the family. It can be argued that he goes about this in two ways.<br>Firstly, he does this through having power over Max. Right from the start of the play we see Lenny attempting to gain control over his father. The way he is dressed in a dark suit in contrast to Max’s old cardigan, illustrates his efforts at being superior and in charge. Pinter adds multiple pauses into the text through Lenny ignoring Max. It is this silence that infers control of the conversation. The few things that Lenny does say are critical such as: ‘Why don’t you just shut up, you daft prat?’ Lenny has no interest in what his father has to say. Similarly, later in the play we see Lenny responding with: ‘Why don’t you just...pop off, eh?’ to Max’s enquiry about some noise. Lenny makes it clear that he has no time for Max. In the confrontations that do happen, Max is the one who ‘turns and walks’ while Lenny ‘sits still’, thus holding his ground and gaining the advantage. Finally, we see Lenny dismissing Max when he tries to get involved with the negotiation about Ruth. Lenny is the one ‘giving you a professional opinion.’ Max is ‘sexless’ and Lenny exerts control over him using patronizing statements such as: ‘You realize that?’ indicating Lenny is the one who knows what’s going on and Max is simply a useless, old man. By doing so, Lenny is achieving what he wants which is to have power over his father and therefore have an important position in the family.<br>The second method Lenny uses to achieve power is through Ruth’s future in the family. When discussing what will happen with Ruth, Lenny is the character who appears to take control. Lenny recognises that Ruth isn’t ‘a woman who likes walking around in second-hand goods’ and therefore he has ‘a better idea’ and as Lenny says: ‘I know these women.’ When facing questioning from the rest of his family, Lenny always has answers, for example: ‘I can limit the hours.’ Lenny is taking personal control over the situation. He labels his father as ‘sexless’ and Joey as undistinguished: ‘more distinguished than you’ll ever be.’ Lenny gives ‘a professional opinion’ and uses his employment as a way of presenting himself as superior to the rest of his family. It is through his knowledge of ‘the game’ which allows him to take on Ruth in a way that is different to his other family members. Lenny is the one who can provide a flat for Ruth and so he exercises an element of control over her, and therefore, over his family which is ultimately what he wants.<br>
Hippo's comment, November 22, 2013 10:28 AM
Beth writes: Freedom from suppression:<br>Ruth wants freedom from the suppression of the “clean” American lifestyle and also from Teddy’s domineering, manipulative control. Pinter suggests their life in America is false and unnatural for Ruth; she feels more at home in the honest “dirty” London; hence her “homecoming”. Ruth desires independence and power: she wants to be able to control rather than be controlled. When Teddy leaves, Ruth “sits relaxed in her chair”. Pinter illustrates her relief; “relaxed” but also the control she has successfully gained since she is sitting in Max’s chair which is symbolic as he had the most authority in the household prior to the power struggle between him and Lenny. Ruth draws attention to her sexuality to express her individuality: “I wear…underwear”. America is typically a symbol of independence and individuality but ironically, Ruth feels lost and out of place in the American lifestyle.<br><br>Acceptance:<br>Ruth feels inferior to Teddy: she is out of her depth and potentially depressed in America. He has a respectable profession as a college professor whereas she was a “model” and prostitute. Ruth wants to feel at home and accepted for who she really is: “it’s all rock. And sand. It stretches…so far…everywhere you look”. The imagery of a desert; “sand…everywhere” is emphatic. It implies Ruth feels lost and unable to escape: “it stretches…so far…everywhere”. She is happy to be treated like an object in order to be accepted and appreciated: “you are going to have to share her! Otherwise she goes straight back to America”. She is depicted as a toy for Joey, which enhances the idea of her being an object of desire for the men. The security of the contract; “all aspects of the agreement…before we finalized the contract” protects her and guarantees her position in London with the family. It also gives her a role and purpose, in contrast to her role in America where Teddy emphasises her inadequacy: “she’s a great help to me over there”. Pinter highlights the sense of inferiority Ruth feels in comparison to Teddy.<br>
George Weasley's comment, November 22, 2013 7:00 PM
Ruth creates a persona and sense of dominance in order to succeed in getting what she wants. Ruth’s ultimate desire is to return home to her former self. Home to her is back in England where there is a sense of freedom in sexuality, morality and independence, which was not there for her in America with Teddy. Ruth belongs where Teddy’s family are and the audience can recognize the strength of Ruth’s belonging when she first arrives and goes out for ‘a breath of air’ (pg.33), as if when she is in the constricting roles of wife and mother in America she is suffocated by this. Ruth’s wants to leave this subordinate role of wife and mother in America and the lack of vibrancy she feels with Teddy is expressed through her description of life there; ‘It’s all rock. And sand. It stretches…so far…everywhere you look. And there’s lots of insects there’ (pg.85). The barren, dryness of America reflects Ruth’s lack of independence and freedom of authority within her domestic role, Ruth feeling of detachment from her life back in America is further emphasized through her describing the shoes; ‘I can’t get the ones I want over there’, Ruth is not comfortable there and America does not flatter her femininity or allow her to express her dominance. Ruth’s feeling of fulfillment in dominance and freedom of arriving in Teddy’s home is expressed through the symbol of her quenching her thirst, ‘Oh I was thirsty’ (pg.53) The contrast of her words about America to Teddy’s description; ‘We’ve got a lovely house… we’ve got it all…we’ve got everything we want’ (pg.80), also exposes the loss of connection between Teddy and his wife. Teddy is out of touch and indifferent to his wife, he misinterprets Ruth, ‘You can help me with my lectures when we get back’ (pg. 89), this patronizing way in which Teddy talks to Ruth and the false impression Teddy has of Ruth reflects Teddy’s detachment from Ruth, and this is what Ruth wants to free her self from, by coming back to England. Although Ruth wants domination and a liberty away from the role of Teddy’s wife her ultimate desire is to not to be in prostitution, because she instead wants to prove herself and change Teddy’s attitude towards her; this is shown through Ruth deliberately skirting commitment by conducting the negotiations to do with her prostitution in conditional verbs, ‘I would want at least three rooms’ (pg.128). The lack of Ruth’s obligation demonstrates her desire for independence and authority and the chance to escape her arid and constricting life in America, this idea is further accentuated by Ruth’s ambiguous farewell to Teddy, ‘Don’t become a stranger’ (pg.136)
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The Homecoming Harold Pinter by Dr Ronnie Bai | Humanities 360

The Homecoming Harold Pinter by Dr Ronnie Bai | Humanities 360 | Pinter's The Homecoming |
Harold Pinter’s two-act play, The Homecoming, offers a penetrating insight into the dark male attitudes directed at women. The all-male members of Max’s family are marked with inclination

Via Bronweasley
Bronweasley's curator insight, November 17, 2013 8:54 PM

'The sudden appearance of a women figure makes Sam awaken to the truth of his impression of women. Pinter presents Sam as a retainer of the family moral, and when the family strikes a deal to make Ruth a prostitute, acting the combined role of “whore-mother-wife”, he is forced to blurt out the secret of Jessie. Sam, as a witness to the violence of this nucleus family, maintains that women should be a wife-figure.'

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Paul Rogers obituary

Paul Rogers obituary | Pinter's The Homecoming |
Actor who played many major Shakespearean roles on the stage
Hippo's insight:

Possibly of wider interest. Some brief comments on his portrayal of Max. What do you think was the significance of the bowl of apples?

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Key quotations explained

Please add your thoughts and help build a bank of key quotations and moments in the play.

Lucia Garnett's comment, May 8, 2013 7:52 PM
Max: 'My mother was bedridden...'
Lucia Garnett's comment, May 8, 2013 7:58 PM
This quotation elicits the circularity to the play, and the way in which there is supposedly no escape for the men, from their life among a struggle for power over women. Max's mother being bedridden in context with Max saying 'I had to study the disease' suggests that his mother may in fact have been a prostitute herself. Therefore, his mother, his wife and his daughter in law follow suit and continue the family tradition, which is what this role of the woman as a whore seems to be. Reinforcing this, earlier in the play Sam says 'It was my mothers house too.' This therefore exaggerates the irony of their situation; as well as simply following suit, they physically haven't moved away from the house in which their mother was first a prostitute.
LadyElliot's comment, May 31, 2013 5:50 PM
'he gives it to her' page 35. Teddy reluctantly hands Ruth the key to the house, whilst it foreshadows his passive reluctance to give Ruth to the family. It can also have a freudian interpretation: the key is a phallic symbol, which, Ruth in this instance attains power.
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Blog Archive » Film/Theater: Two views on “The Homecoming” - Blogs

Blog Archive » Film/Theater: Two views on “The Homecoming” - Blogs | Pinter's The Homecoming |
Set in a single room in a working class home in North London, Harold Pinter's eerie play The Homecoming (1964) delves into the eternal struggle of achieving power over others. Superiority at first seems set in place.
Hippo's insight:

I like the phrase "deadpan ambiguities" in the second review.

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Art, Truth and Politics. Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize Lecture

A fantastic, thought-provoking and humourus speech by Harold Pinter in which he talks about the homecoming and his thoughts when beginning to write the play: 'Our beginnings never know our ends'. And then goes on to focus on his works in relation to politics and the discovery of truth. Definitely worth a watch if you have the time.;

Hippo's insight:

Thanks to Bertie, aka Mrs Croft, for this link. I have not watched that far in, but it looks really interesting. I like the point that he suspects Lenny may have stolen the scissors...


Mrs. Croft's comment, April 26, 2013 7:57 PM
Second half is a bit useless in terms of the play but the section about the 'dog cook' and characters 'A, B and C' is very interesting.