The Homecoming begins in the evening of an apparently normal working day. Max and Lenny are sitting in the large, slumlike living room in North London, which is the realistic setting for the entire action of the play; they are arguing. Sam returns from work, and Max verbally attacks him. Then Joey returns from his boxing gym, and Max also verbally abuses him. Later that night, after all three have gone to bed, Teddy and Ruth arrive from the United States, unannounced, and while Ruth goes out for a breath of air, Lenny enters and converses nonchalantly with Teddy. Teddy retires to his old bedroom upstairs, and Ruth returns, to be greeted by Lenny, who engages in provocative banter and storytelling. This leads to an incident with a glass of water that Ruth offers to Lenny with clear sexual implications. When Lenny recoils, she laughs, drinks the water, and retires upstairs to bed. Max, awakened by the conversations, comes down and abuses Lenny. The next morning, when Teddy and Ruth come downstairs, Max reacts violently, particularly against Ruth, and orders Joey to throw both of them out. Joey is unwilling, and Max hits him. Max then changes his mind; the act ends with Max about to embrace Teddy.
Act 2 begins sometime later, with all the characters around the lunch table, their meal completed. Max reminisces about his dead wife Jessie and his children’s childhood years but soon reviles them; Sam leaves to do a taxi pickup, and Teddy talks in positive terms about his academic life in America as a professor and doctor of philosophy; Ruth, though, comments negatively on the life she leads in the United States. Teddy tries to persuade Ruth to return with him to America and their three children. Teddy goes upstairs to pack; Lenny puts on a slow jazz record and dances with Ruth. Teddy comes downstairs with the suitcases, and Joey and Max enter. Ruth allows Joey to lie on her but pushes him away and asks for whiskey, which Lenny brings to her. Teddy, prompted by Ruth, refuses to discuss his work as a philosopher.
The scene blacks out, and it is now evening. Max is talking to Teddy. Lenny enters, looking for a cheese roll he had prepared, but Teddy says that he has eaten it “deliberately.” Lenny lectures him about his (Teddy’s) role as a member of the family. Joey comes downstairs; he has been alone with Ruth in a bedroom but has not been “the whole hog”—one of a series of animal images used in the play. Lenny prompts Joey to tell Teddy a story about how they forced two women to have sex on a bomb site. Max and Sam return, and, with Teddy apparently passive, Max decides that Ruth shall stay with them in London. Lenny proposes to take her up to Greek Street to earn money to support herself, clearly suggesting that she become a prostitute, and they fantasize about the future income she will generate. Teddy warns them that she will “get old . . . very quickly.” Ruth enters, and Teddy tells her that “the family have invited you to stay . . . as a kind of guest.” Ruth discusses the offer, including the details of her proposed apartment, in practical business terms and appears to accept the proposal. Sam suddenly collapses while blurting out that the mysterious MacGregor “had” Jessie, Max’s former wife, “in the back of my cab.” Teddy leaves for the airport, and the play closes with Ruth sitting in the set’s only chair, Joey’s head in her lap. Max crawls around Sam (who has apparently suffered a heart attack and lies unconscious on the floor), begging her: “Kiss me.” She makes no reply and while Lenny stands watching, the curtain falls.
The characters in The Homecoming are similar to those in Pinter’s earlier plays—men (and, for the first time in a Pinter play, a powerful woman) of a common sort who live out their stage lives within the confines of a single room. The author creates an air of menace through threats conveyed both with language and silence, and acts of violence which suddenly erupt. The...
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