In The Homecoming, how does Harold Pinter present family relationships in crisis?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The play The Homecomingby Harold Pinter presents to us an all-male family unit living together under the same roof, but living in as much isolation from each other as they possibly can. Harold Pinter describes the relationship between the father, Max, and his three sons Lenny, Joey, and Teddy as one in which the two main elements are anger and resentment. The family is obviously dysfunctional: They break every boundary of etiquette and mutual respect, they disrespectfully call each other by names, and there is not one member of that particular unit that can be considered "normal".

We first have Max. At his seventy years of age he is far from being a man who has learned from his past mistakes and has redeemed himself from them. Contrarily,  he is bitter, sour, mean, and abusive both physically and mentally. He takes pride on all his past mistakes and one could almost think that he is willing to go back in time to make the same mistakes again. He takes his anger out on his children and his brother, Sam. He seems still to have a soft spot for the memory of his wife, and he obviously pushes down internal demons closely related to his marriage, and his role within it.

Max's children are emasculated and demeaned. This is evident in that none of them lives normally. Teddy may be a professor with a PhD, but he is still unable to control his wife, Ruth. He even lets his family persuade him to ask Ruth whether she would work as a call girl for them in exchange of free rent in their flat. He seems to have huge problems with asserting himself and, in the end, Ruth chooses his family over him- even with that awkward proposal.

Joey, the youngest, is immature, clueless, and disrespectful. He, as well as the other brother, Lenny, tries to become intimate with Ruth regardless of the fact that she is his brother's wife and the mother of his children. He has stupid aspirations in life, works menial jobs, and in the end ends up being more of a child to Ruth than a former lover.

Finally, you have Lenny who works as a pimp, takes pride in beating up women, and is who tries to get Ruth to become an escort. As he tells his stories, he seems more and more weak in the eyes of Ruth, who represents the Alpha female- the woman who dominates. This, along with Ruth's agreement of going with their silly plan, leads Lenny to realize how little power he really has over Ruth and how Ruth seems to have the cards to win any game. He, as well as Max, end up under the spell of Ruth.

In all, the way in which Pinter presents a family in crisis is by showing us how the break in boundaries, the abundance of disrespect, and the lack of solidarity can create a huge black hole that can swallow a family hole. This family was already in a black hole that Ruth seems to come to redeem.

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