Harold Pinter

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Discuss the themes of moral collapse and the dysfunctional modern family in Pinter's The Homecoming.

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The play overall embodies dysfunction in the family. Several aspects of the play suggest moral collapse.

The play features a family that is all male, since the mother has died. The men are all misogynists, and the sons' voiced opinions of their dead mother reflect that. The father, Max, is verbally abusive toward his sons and negative toward all women. One son, Lenny, is a pimp. The sons challenge and deride their father and each other.

It seems for a while that one son, Teddy, has escaped this nightmare, for he is an academic living in America and married to Ruth. The plot revolves around him bringing Ruth back home with him.

Here, we see the true extent of the dysfunction, because he quickly slips back into the family dynamic. His father and brothers are rude to Ruth, and Teddy's condescension is clear when he suggests that her role is to help him.

The familial dysfunction thus includes this marriage, which Ruth finally rejects. She opts to stay with Teddy's father and brothers.

Broader moral collapse can also be indicated by this step, as it seems Ruth has abandoned her marriage. More generally, the men's attitudes toward other humans, Lenny's boasting of beating a woman, and their tenuous attachment to work and to society beyond the family all support this theme of moral collapse. It is possible that the men expect Ruth will become a sex worker.

The alternate interpretation that Ruth is taking decisive action and forging her own path suggests a challenge to the patriarchy, however, which could be taken to indicate mere societal change, not collapse.

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