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Brittanie Trevarrow

11 November 2014
Development Play Analysis
THE HOMECOMING by Harold Pinter
1964, the year of release for The Homecoming, was a time of change. The Civil Rights movement

was underway in the United States, which included the feminist movement towards empowerment and

equality. In addition, theatre was quickly evolving into more complex, avant-garde forms. In The

Homecoming Pinter uses ambiguity, irony, and feministic stereotypes to provoke the audience to consider

the role of female presence in the familial structure.

This play does not wrap up anything in a bow. It leaves room for audience interpretation of

reasoning, relationships, and roles. From a visual stand point, there is ambiguity in the set. There are no

walls: only furniture lying about the room. Written in the stage directions is depicted a large, square arch that

covers the living area, which makes the audience feel as if something structurally odd: perhaps the lack of a

female head-of-household? In addition, there is lack of clarity in the familial relationships. Max seems to have

a hostile relationship with everyone, but doesnt act on it until the last scene. But he describes the family as

picture-perfect when his wife was still alive, proclaiming, it was like Christmas (46). More ambiguity in the

familial structure includes the lack of reason or time frame for why Teddy left and got married, and why he

never corresponded with his family or mentioned that he had a wife or three sons. It could possibly be

because he is ashamed of his wifes questionable past? The men of the family, with Teddy fully present, even

discuss asking Ruth to stay as a prostitute, but it seems ambiguous whether they are joking to irritate Teddy

(although he contributes to the discussion and fails to defend his wife) or if they are being serious.

Furthermore, the ambiguous marriage between Teddy and Ruth seems rocky and unstableLenny even

thinks they are newlyweds. There is even ambiguity within the text; frequently specific ellipses which appear

in the dialogue of each the characters, specifically when Ruth is speaking about her moving body parts or

life prior to having a family near the beginning of act two. Finally, the last tableau is so vague and leaves

room for so much interpretation for the audience, but places Ruth in the center of the structure. This

ambiguity in set and relationships leaves open opportunity for the audience to read into subtextual intention

and symbolism.

There is also strong use of irony in much of the play, even beginning with the title. The play is called

homecoming, which sets up a warm and inviting feeling for the audience, yet Teddy and Ruth dont actually

interact with the family until the last four pages of act one, when Max is rudely calling Ruth a whore. There

are also deliberate contradictions set up within the reactions of the characters, particularly Ruth and Teddy.

When Lenny rudely comes onto Ruth in their first interaction, instead of telling him off or running to her
husband, she almost teases him before going to bed. From this audience immediately concludes there is

something not quite right between Ruth and Teddy. Ruth is a wife and mother of three, supposedly chaste,

but we later learn she was a nude model and possibly a prostitute. Later on when the Joey is on top of Ruth,

and even later when the boys decide to ask her to stay and whore her out for money, Teddy reacts in the

opposite way the audience would expect. He just stands by, and later contributes to the conversation

instead of defending his wife, as we would expect. He also allows her to stay and leaves on relatively good

terms, which seems odd. Lastly, there is a huge red flag when, in contrary to the frustrated audience

sentiments that were built up from the discussion of whoring out Ruth, she ACCEPTS the offer to stay in

London. This seems very backwards, and antifeminist.

There is an odd paradox that Pinter sets up using the concept of feminism and anti-feminism. The

men of the family seem to not be able to get along with out a female household leader; they cant even cook

a decent breakfast. The play paints the picture that a womans usefulness is dissolved to sex, cooking, and

cleaning. It is extremely frustrating at the end of act two when the boys mention that in her spare time Ruth

may give the place a scrub and do the cooking. Its also easy for the audience to draw a parallel between

Jessie, the dead wife, and Ruth, because Max seems to be replacing her and asks her if he is too old for

her. Furthermore, after anti-feminist moments arrive moments of power for Ruth. After she pushes Joey off of

making out with her, she demands a drink, in a tumbler, and something to eat. The boys try to appease her.

In addition, although she accepts the proposal to become the family prostitute and stay in London, she

treats the whole ordeal as an extremely professional business action, demands amendments to the deal, and

gets her way. The language of that speech is also much more heightened than the more sparse dialogue she

previously used. Finally she becomes the center of the tableau at the end, demanding the power of the

family and the control of the men. It is a very interesting paradox that is set up for her and brings all the

audiences attention onto her role and the reasoning behind her actions.

If I were directing this production, I would put all of the focus on Ruth and feminism. The arch way to

me represents the uterine wall. Everything on the set should be red and pink; every set piece should

suggest the feminine body. This includes sofas shaped like bosoms, vaginally shaped door ways, the two

doors should be in the corners of that square archway, and so on The men would be incompetent in

everything, including speech, movement, and cleanliness. I would want burnt toast smell emitted during the

breakfast scene. There would be a hostile subtext to every interaction except those directed at Ruth. She is

like a goddess that has blessed the household with her presence. She is white, clean, bright, chaste. Without

her, life for the men would be cold, bleak and black.